April 21, 2024
New Treatment Strategy Shows Promise in Shrinking Aggressive Brain Tumors

New Treatment Strategy Shows Promise in Shrinking Aggressive Brain Tumors

A recent breakthrough in the treatment of a very aggressive form of brain tumor has demonstrated encouraging results in initial trials involving a small number of patients.

Researchers have formulated a novel approach that involves transforming patients’ own immune cells into living drugs capable of identifying and attacking glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer notoriously difficult to treat. In the preliminary tests, these engineered cells successfully reduced the size of tumors, albeit temporarily, as revealed by the researchers on Wednesday.

Although CAR-T therapy has been effective in combating blood cancers such as leukemia, its efficacy against solid tumors has been limited. However, teams at Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania have been working on innovative CAR-T variations to overcome the defenses of glioblastoma.

Dr. Stephen Bagley from the University of Pennsylvania, who led one of the studies, emphasized that it is still early days for this new strategy but expressed optimism regarding its potential for further development.

Glioblastoma is a highly aggressive form of brain cancer characterized by rapid growth and resistance to treatment. Patients diagnosed with this condition typically have a life expectancy of 12 to 18 months. Despite extensive research, there are few effective options available once the cancer recurs following surgery and radiation.

The immune system’s T cells play a crucial role in fighting diseases, but cancer cells can evade detection. Through CAR-T therapy, doctors modify a patient’s T cells genetically to enhance their ability to identify and attack cancer cells. However, solid tumors like glioblastoma present an additional challenge due to the presence of various cancer cell mutations. Targeting only one type of cell can allow others to continue to grow unchecked.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania devised dual-target approaches to address this complexity and tested them in patients with recurrent tumors.

At Mass General, Dr. Marcela Maus’ team combined CAR-T therapy with T-cell engaging antibody molecules to attract regular T cells to join the cancer-fighting process. This innovative approach, known as CAR-TEAM, targets the EGFR protein found in most glioblastomas while sparing normal brain tissue.

Meanwhile, Penn’s strategy involved creating a dual-target CAR-T therapy that seeks out both the EGFR protein and another common protein in glioblastomas.

Both research teams administered the treatments directly into the fluid surrounding the brain through a catheter.

The initial trial at Mass General involving three patients treated with CAR-TEAM revealed a rapid reduction in tumor size on brain scans conducted shortly afterwards. While tumor regrowth was observed in two patients, one individual showed a sustained response to the experimental therapy for over six months.

Similarly, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reported in Nature Medicine that the initial six patients treated with their therapy exhibited varying degrees of tumor shrinkage, with one patient showing no signs of tumor regrowth seven months after treatment.

The primary challenge for both teams moving forward is to enhance the durability and long-term effectiveness of the treatment.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it