Brain Cancer Vaccine Could Boost Incurable Glioblastoma Survival From Months to Years

The vaccine addresses certain brain cancer tumors. A doctor holds a human brain in a brain bank in the Bronx borough of New York City Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The typical survival rate for glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive type of brain cancer, is 15 to 17 months, but a new type of vaccine that enlists the patient's own immune system to battle the tumor has been shown to extend survival by as much as seven years.

In a new trial, detailed in a paper published Tuesday in the Journal of Translational Medicine, researchers enlisted the help of 331 glioblastoma patients to test the potential of a new vaccine treatment. All of the patients received the standard care for this type of cancer, which involves surgery followed by both radiotherapy and chemotherapy, The Guardian reported. Of the original patients, 232 were regularly injected with the experimental vaccine in addition to the traditional treatment. The remaining 99 were given a placebo. However, any patients who experienced a regrowth of the their tumor during the trial were also given the experimental vaccine.

Results showed that the treatment was safe, and patients who received the vaccine lived on average longer than those who did not. While the average survival rate following surgery is about 16 months, those who received the vaccine lived more than 23 months following the surgery. Nearly 30 percent lived for an average of 40.5 months following surgery, and some survived more than seven years.

The treatment is a DCVax immunotherapy vaccine and works by mixing cells from the patient's immune system with markers from the tumors, The Independent. The vaccine is then injected back into the patient. This unique combination enables it to accurately attack the brain cancer tumor.

Glioblastoma multiforme is a type of malignant brain tumor, and while it is not the most common type of brain tumor, but is by far the deadliest, Medical News Today reported. Even if a patient follows all a doctor's instructions and undergoes every recommended treatment, survival is still a little over a year. For this reason, those involved in the new research call the trial "new hope to the patients and clinicians battling with this terrible disease," The Guardian reported.

However, scientists will need to further analyze these trial results before the treatment can be taken to the public, but these results give hope to the thousands of glioblastoma patients living in the U.S.