World First Trial Offers Hope for Brain Cancer Patients

11-12-2015
The Newro Foundation in partnership with QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute is conducting a novel immunotherapy clinical trial targeting a type of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme GBM), in patients at the Wesley Medical Research.

Brain trial smallThere is currently no cure for brain cancer and GBM is the most common and malignant of the glial tumours. About 150 people are diagnosed in Brisbane every year. Sadly the life expectancy of a person diagnosed with GBM is just one year.

The first GBM patient, Mike Oldano, was administered killer T-cell immunotherapy at the Wesley on September 24.

QIMR Berghofer lead researcher and tumour immunologist Professor Rajiv Khanna, who developed this therapy in collaboration with neurosurgeon Professor David Walker at Newro Foundation, said immunotherapy had great potential to target GBM.

“This is the new frontier in cancer treatment,” Professor Khanna said.

"We hope it will soon become part of the normal treatment, alongside chemotherapy and radiation.

"One of the major advantages of immunotherapy is it doesn’t have the nasty side effects that chemotherapy or radiotherapy has. This therapy is designed to train a patient’s own T-cells to fight cancer.”

The trial involves taking a blood sample from a patient newly diagnosed with GBM and growing their killer T-cells (a type of white blood cell) in a specialised laboratory. The infused T-cells will aim to give the patient’s immune system a boost to attack the tumour and kill the cancer.

Patients are infused over a number of weeks and monitored for 12 months.

Researchers hope the development of this treatment, used in conjunction with standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy, will reduce the rate of tumour recurrence in patients.

Dr Walker said the experimental treatment was developed for newly diagnosed human cytomegalovirus (HCMV)-positive GBM patients and hopes were high for a positive outcome.

“This treatment acknowledges the importance of the immune system in recognising and responding to HCMV infected GBM cells,” he said.

“Research has found a possible link between viral infections like HCMV in the development of GBM. We hope the immune response during the trial will be sufficient to significantly delay or even prevent recurrence.”

QIMR Berghofer Director and CEO Professor Frank Gannon said it was an exciting day for the institute to see this trial commence.