Northwestern Medicine recently joined a clinical trial to investigate if a vaccine made from a patient's own brain tumor is effective in slowing tumor progression and extending survival. The randomized, phase II trial will study how well giving the study vaccine with or without Avastin (bevacizumab) works in treating patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).
The study is the largest randomized brain tumor vaccine trial ever funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and is chaired by Andrew T. Parsa, M.D., Ph.D., who joined Northwestern Memorial Hospital in July as the new chair of neurological surgery. The first participant in the Midwest, and only third in the country, was enrolled in the trial last week at Northwestern Memorial.
The trial will enroll more than 200 participants with recurrent glioblastoma that can be surgically removed. Following the participant's surgery, the tumor is sent to an industry collaborator Agenus, where the participant's specific personalized vaccine, designated as HSPPC-96, is created. The vaccine is unique to the individual participant and is engineered to trigger an immune system response to kill tumor cells that may remain following surgery.
"This is truly personalized medicine where the patient's own tumor is being used to help fight their cancer," said Parsa, who also is the Michael J. Marchese, professor and chair of the department of neurological surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a member of the of Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and part of the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute. "The vaccine provokes a tumor-specific immune response that is specific to that patient. The T cells, which are the part of the immune system that fights disease, tracks down the cancer cells and kills them."
Parsa launched this area of research in 2006 at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Previous phases of this research have returned promising results finding that the vaccine extended survival for participants with glioblastoma when compared to standard therapies.
In this next phase, researchers are seeking to understand if the vaccine is safe and more effective when given with Avastin, a drug that is known to shrink brain tumors and is a standard therapy for recurrent glioblastoma. Trial participants will be randomized to either receive the vaccine alone, concurrently with Avastin or Avastin only. Jeffrey Raizer, M.D., co-director of the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute (NBTI), is the Principal Investigator for the trial at Northwestern.
A successful trial could lead to the vaccine potentially being approved to treat recurrent brain tumors, making it one of only a few approved therapeutic cancer vaccines.