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Glioblastoma Multiforme (Brain Cancer) Clinical Trial

1 November 2008


In late 2008 the Malaghan Institute initiated a Phase I clinical trial to test the feasibility and safety of using dendritic cell vaccines in combination with temozolomide chemotherapy for the treatment of patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive brain tumour with a 100 % fatality rate.

Dendritic cells are a rare group of immune cells in the body that can activate T cells, considered the foot soldiers of the immune response, to destroy cancer tissue.

The brain cancer trial is the culmination of over a decade of basic cancer immunotherapy research at the Malaghan Institute and is being overseen by the Head of the Institute's Vaccine Research Group, Dr Ian Hermans, in collaboration with Wellington Hospital neurosurgeon Mr Martin Hunn, and Dr David Hamilton from the Wellington Blood and Cancer Centre.

It is anticipated that the trial will involve 12-17 patients that meet a strict set of eligibility criteria. The custom-made vaccines used in the trial are created by loading dendritic cells isolated from the patient's blood with tissue from their surgically-removed tumour. It is hoped that the T cells will be selectively activated to destroy brain tumour cells.

The patients will initially receive three vaccine treatments at two-week intervals, before being given the chemotherapy drug temozolomide. Once chemotherapy has been started, the vaccines and the chemotherapy will then each be given to the patients monthly for up to six months.

The trial was made possible by a grant from the Cancer Society of New Zealand.

Enrolments for this trial have closed due to the required number of patients being met.

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