Best Life: Killing glioblastoma - turning the body against the brain

Best Life: Killing glioblastoma - turning the body against the brain
Glioblastoma - Brain Cancer

CLEVELAND, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - One of the first signs can be a headache, but it gets worse—fast.

The damage glioblastoma does is devastating, even deadly. It is the most aggressive form of brain cancer.

The average person lives just 15 months after diagnosis. But now there’s new hope, using the patient’s own body to kill tumor cells.

Mark Fink spends a lot of time discussing the small things with his wife Veronica but sometimes, he just can’t find the right words.

Veronica told Ivanhoe, “We were on our way to my daughter's birthday party and he was gonna sign the card.” Mark said, “I knew what her name was, but I could not create it. I couldn't not write it. No.”

Mark was diagnosed with a glioblastoma.

Manmeet Ahluwalia, MD, a neurooncologist at Cleveland Clinic, explained, “They are extremely difficult to treat because they spread as spider webs or tentacles. Even with surgery, we can never remove it completely.”

Dr. Ahluwalia is leading a clinical trial at the Cleveland Clinic called Survaxm. It’s an immunotherapy vaccine that targets glioblastomas.

Dr. Ahluwalia detailed, “This is a peptide-based vaccine that targets survivin. Survivin is a protein that is expressed by cancer cells and it's not presented in normal cells.”

After patients undergo surgery, chemo, and radiation, they’re given the vaccine every two weeks for eight weeks. Then another shot every three months.

“When we give this vaccine to the patients, it basically boosts their immune system to mount a response against the survivin,” said Dr. Ahluwalia.

After Survaxm there’s no trace of Mark’s tumor. He believes the vaccine is responsible for saving and changing his life.

“He’s always been a very kind man, and now he’s even kinder,” said Veronica.

With the vaccine, 96.8% of the patients were alive after 26 months. Without the vaccine, average survival after diagnosis is 15 to 18 months. More trials are expected this year. First, the treatment will be tested in a randomized trial in patients newly diagnosed with glioblastoma. Doctors are also going to combine two immunotherapies together to see if the immune system gets an extra boost.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer, Marsha Lewis, Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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