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Brain cancer and immunotherapy treatment

One cancer that hasn’t responded well to immunotherapy is brain cancer. Glioblastoma, the most common type of adult brain cancer, remains especially difficult to treat — and deadly. Patients with a glioblastoma tumor typically die within two years of being diagnosed.

Now, researchers at the University of Florida say they’ve made a discovery that could lead to an effective immunotherapy for brain cancer.

Their research focuses on a class of immunotherapy drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors, which can unleash a patient’s immune system against cancer by blocking proteins that suppress the body’s ability to destroy cancer cells. So far, the drugs generally have not worked on malignant brain tumors.

In an article recently published in the journal Nature Communications, Catherine Flores, an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s neurosurgery department, describes how stem cells from bone marrow could be used to reprogram glioblastoma tumors to make them responsive to checkpoint inhibitors. She and her team at UF hope to move their research into clinical testing during the next 12 to 18 months.

“This is truly one of the more exciting developments I’ve seen in our field in many years,” says Dr. Duane Mitchell, co-director of the Center for Brain Tumor Therapy at UF. If clinical trials bear out Flores’ findings, he says, it would bring new hope to “patients who do not currently benefit from this remarkable class of immunotherapeutic treatment.”

 

Read more in our February issue.

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