The research led by the researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has suggested that immunotherapy drug before surgery is more effective to treat recurrent brain tumor called glioblastoma.
This study was published in the Nature Medicine Journal on February 11th, 2019.
The study led by UCLA explains the effectiveness of having an immunotherapy drug before surgery as compared to using the drug afterward. The newly developed drug has been stated to be the ideal medicine for the people with recurrent glioblastoma.
Glioblastoma is the primary malicious brain tumor in adults. It is a destructive and toxic form of brain cancer. Patients suffering from this cancer lives hardly for six to nine months.
Immunotherapy drug can bind the body's immune system to destroy the cancer cells. Though these drugs have already proved to be best for patients with advanced or metastatic cancer, it has yet to show the benefits in treating glioblastoma.
Robert Prins, the study's senior author said, “The results are very encouraging. This is the first hint that immunotherapy can have a clinical benefit for patients with malignant brain tumors and help prevent future recurrences.”
Prins further added, “This data may lead us to a better understanding of the mechanisms by which some patients generate significant immune responses to this therapy while others do not.”
Dr. Timothy Cloughesy, a professor of neuro-oncology at the Geffen School of Medicine said, “By administering the immunotherapy before surgery, we activated the T cells within the tumor that was previously functionally impaired, which is essentially what helped extend people's lives."
Cloughesy also said, “This isn't a very big study, and our data need to be replicated, but we have a foot in the door."
The study has revealed for the first time that pembrolizumab can be effective in treating recurrent glioblastoma. During the study, patients were given this drug prior to their surgery and they lived nearly twice as compared to patients treated with it after the surgery.
Pembrolizumab is an antibody and it functions by hindering a protein called PD-1. This protein stops the T cells from attacking the cancer cells in the human body. The cancer cells in the body use the PD-1 protein to keep T cells away. The arrangement of this protein with the inhibitor drug like pembrolizumab helps our body’s immune system to fight back with cancer.
This study was conducted at seven different medical centers in the U.S. The activities of around 35 patients with recurrent glioblastoma were analyzed during the study. Out of those participants, 16 people were given the pembrolizumab drug before their surgery and the other 19 were given the drug after the surgery.
It was found that the people who were treated with the drug before the surgery lived for an average of 417 days. The people who were treated with the drug after the surgery survived only for an average of 228 days.
The researchers figured out an important fact during their trial. They found that antigen-specific T cells can be weakened due to a tumor and the surrounding microenvironment. But the T cells can be awakened using the drug before the surgery to function well.
However, this drug doesn't work after surgery. The reason is the removal of T cells of the patient with a tumor during the surgery.
These results are really interesting and could aid further treatments. The team of researchers is now looking forward to testing the immunotherapy drugs along with other vaccines and checkpoint inhibitors.