Kids With Brain Cancer may Have New Options

Glioma associated antigen vaccination in development

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Vaccination therapy to treat cancer is similar to the concept of using vaccines to prevent illness. But it can be tricky, because the threat is already present, and too strong of a reaction can cause a few problems.

A recent study found using vaccination therapy in children who had a brain cancer known as glioma went well. Improvements were seen in the day-to-day life of the patients, and few side effects were observed overall.

"Ask your oncologist about vaccination therapy."

The study led by Ian F. Pollack, M.D., professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh, showed  that further development of the therapy may become an effective treatment for this aggressive brain cancer.

“We’ve found that the vaccine is tolerated well with limited systemic toxicity, but we’ve also observed that there are some patients who have immunological responses to the vaccine target in the brain that can cause swelling and transient worsening, and subsequently, some of those children can have very favorable responses,” said Dr. Pollack.

Researchers began their first test study with 27 children, 16 with brain stem gliomas, five with newly diagnosed cerebral high-grade gliomas and six with recurrent gliomas.

Groups were divided and given different treatments to see which was the most effective. The vaccines contained the peptides known as glioma-associated antigens, specifically EphA2, IL13Ra2 and survivin.

The study results showed that while four children did not respond to therapy, 14 had stable disease for more than three months, three sustained partial responses and one patient had prolonged disease-free status after surgery.

A total of four patients developed a side effect of the vaccine therapy working too well, resulting in a temporary swelling of the brain known as immunological pseudoprogression.

Dr. Pollack remains optimistic for the future development of this treatment as a viable therapy for the otherwise very grim prognosis associated with brain cancer.

“This was the first study of its type that examined peptide vaccine therapy for children with brain tumors like this,” Dr. Pollack said. “The fact that we’ve seen tumor shrinkage in children with very high-risk tumors has been extremely encouraging and somewhat surprising.”

The research was presented at the American Association of Cancer Research's Annual 2012. Until subsequent publication in a peer-reviewed journal, findings should be considered preliminary.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Review Date: 
April 9, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2012