News Flash > Cancer


Vaccine for Brain Cancer

Reported November 25, 2009

NEW YORK (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Every year, 10,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the most aggressive and most common form of brain cancer. Even after surgery, radiation and chemo, doctors say the tumor returns in 95 percent of cases. Researchers are testing out a new vaccine that aims to stop the cancer from coming back.

Peter Rauch was just about to celebrate his 70th birthday when he got the news: brain cancer.

"I thought maybe I was getting dementia or something like that," Rauch said. "I just didn't feel quite right."

He had a crainiotomy, where surgeons remove part of the skull and cut out the cancer. The operation went well, but doctors are always concerned the tumors will come back.

"They infiltrate into the brain, and we can take out the majority of them, but there are microscopic cells that go into the brain that are very, very hard to treat," Ted Schwartz, M.D., a neurosurgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, told Ivanhoe.

Rauch is testing out a new vaccine. It works by training his immune system to target and kill cancer cells.

"With new treatments like tumor vaccines, we can actually 'rev-up' the body's own immune system to target and treat those tumors," Dr. Schwartz explained.



In phase II trials, patients who got the vaccine were free of cancer for about 16 and a half months and survived nearly three years. Those who didn't get the shot saw their cancer progress six months later. They survived a little over a year.

"We've been doing this for many years," Dr. Schwartz said. "It helps to stave off disease, but is not a cure. Now, we have a treatment that potentially can increase the number of long-term survivors."

"I don't think I'm back to where I was before the surgery, but I'm getting closer," Rauch said.

So far, he's feeling good, and grateful for every day his cancer stays away.

Patients in the trial receive monthly injections for as long as the tumor has not returned. To be eligible for the vaccine trial, patients must be over 18, have a newly diagnosed brain tumor and have recently had surgery to remove it.

Andrew Klein
Public Affairs
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center