Experimental CAR-T Therapy – brings revolution in brain tumor, Glioblastoma Treatment!

A brain cancer is diagnosed in 3 to 5 percent population
A brain cancer is diagnosed in 3 to 5 percent population. Credit | Shutterstock

United States: A glioblastoma, which is a hard-to-treat and fast-growing cancer in the brain, has been a lethal diagnosis for cancer patients for many years now.

Only 3 percent to 5 percent of the population that has been diagnosed with this type of brain tumor will survive three years after the diagnosis. Approximately 14 months after the moment of diagnosis, the patients usually die.

Experimental remedy to cure cancer

At this time, there is an experimental remedy that takes immune cells from a person and re-purposes them to attack the tumors that have come about as a result of cancer. This approach is showing some really remarkable findings.

The three studies reported to the media in the last week clearly outlined the extremely strong effects it can have on patients when a unique therapy called CAR-T is administered inside the brain. In some occasions, tumors just used to disappear in a couple of minutes in MRI scans.

Dr. Otis Brawley, a professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University and former chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, who was not part of the study stated, “That was shocking to me,” and, “That’s fast. I mean, whoa!”

Apart from that, such tumors have always recurred, and the aforementioned studies – including those from the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, California; the University of Pennsylvania; and Massachusetts General Hospital – have not proved the survival benefit for patients. Nonetheless, scientists anticipate as some adjustments are made, they will be able to do that in the long run.

Brawley added, “They clearly made the tumors shrink, so it’s doing something,” and, “Now, the hard part starts.”

Furthermore, he added, “We have a drug that has some activity. We have to figure out how we can maximize that activity,” as CNN Health reported.

The case of Tom Fraser

Visual Representation | Credit | Shutterstock

Tom Fraser, aged 72 and from Rochester, NY, went for a pilot study of CAR-T at the Mass General Brigham in the Boston area last summer to expunge a glioblastoma brain tumor that went on growing oftentimes despite chemotherapy and radiation. The results of the study will be published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The scientists first removed T-cells, or the immune system defenders from his blood, then genetically modified them in the lab for them to be able to bind to specific proteins present on the surface of brain tumor cells. The Mass General researchers also took a second step: giving an additional but different approach to the CAR-T cells at the same time to help his body overcome the cancer.

A malignant tumor is involved in the body’s immune function hijacking because it can employ a suppressor T-cell, which is an alternative type of T-cell and mutes down the immune response. Fraser’s CAR-T cells were genetically engineered to recognize the suppressor T-cells protecting the tumor, which were then modified to become killer T-cells that would go after it.

Subsequent to the administration of a 10-milliliter infusion containing about 10 million CAR-T cells, Fraser’s tumor started to disappear. In fact, the scan result late the next day showed the brain tumor about 20% smaller, and, by the next weeks, it was no longer visible. The medical team is positive that he has shown no advancement of his cancer for up to 6 months now. He has had three brain surgeries already.

Dr. Marcela Maus, the lead author of the study stated, “These kinds of responses don’t really happen with any other kinds of therapy for glioblastoma,” as CNN Health reported.

Case of the other two patients

While two other patients had their tumors shrink after only one treatment and appeared to respond to the therapy, their cancers came back in one month and two months respectively after their infusions.

Regardless of the fact, researchers remain hopeful with their observations.

Maus, director of the cellular immunotherapy program at Mass General Cancer Center in Boston said, “Even though two of our patients progressed before six months, we think that we can do various maneuvers to try to increase that durability.”

She reveals that they are assessing the option of administration of chemotherapy prior to CAR-T, with the expectation of augmentation of the protocol.

It was highlighted that this study was to find the patient’s right dose and first, ensure its safety for those who are other patients. These unexpected reactions in the first three patients really opened her mind to a whole new field of possibilities.