Fighting Cancer with Cancer.

Every year in the United States over 200,000 people are diagnosed with Brain Cancer, and brain tumors are a significant portion of solid tumor mortality rates.  Brain tumors are also the leading cause of death in pediatric cancers.  With all of these scary statistics is unimaginable to think that the treatment options for brain tumors have changed very little in the past several decades.  The two year survival rate Gliobastoma multiforme (GBM) is still less than 27%.  However, there is an increasing number of clinical trials being conducted using cancer cell vaccines.  Some of these clinical trials are looking for participants and are focusing on brain tumors.   Dr. Olfest’s team is working with cancer cell vaccines with a slightly different approach.  They are growing the vaccines in low oxygen environments.

Glioblastoma Multiforme

Glioblastoma Multiforme

The way they are creating these cancer cell vaccines is quite fascinating.  First they surgically remove the tumor, and then they create a vaccine from the tumor cells.  It’s amazing to think that they are using the actual tumor cell to fight any cancerous cells that might have been left behind.   The first patient to receive this therapy was a German Shepherd named Batman.  Batman lived an extra 18 months when he was originally only given a few weeks to live (it also was not the brain tumor that killed him).

Canine Brain Tumor

Canine Brain Tumor

It comes as no surprise that just a small change in how we make cancer cell vaccines, like how much oxygen it is exposed to, can make a major difference. Dr. Olfest explains, “Growing the tumors in oxygen levels that mimic those present in the body, as opposed to levels found in the normal atmosphere, appears to make a difference. Oxygen levels change the way cells behave.”  According to their findings the lower O2 levels help the cancer cell vaccines more successful at finding and destroying cancer cells, and also help the body’s natural immune system more efficient in fighting cancer.  I think the promise of this therapy is incredible, and the fact that just a small change like the oxygen concentration has such a major impact on success shows you just how accurate these cancer therapies have to be created.

Article Title: A New Era of Hope

Article Link: http://www.childrenscancer.org/main/latest/a_new_era_of_hope/                 Picture (canine): http://www.braintumorlab.com/?pgp=Dogs                                                 Picture (glioblastoma multiforme): http://radiopaedia.org/images/363725

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