With each new diagnosis of glioblastoma, comes shock, disbelief, and turmoil. Our collective awareness of this dreaded disease was heightened lastweek with the announcement that Senator John McCain will now be counted among the brave GBM warriors.
While we could be tempted to feel defeat by the continued accumulation of new GBM diagnoses, EndBrainCancer is taking this opportunity to share the perspective of OPTIMISM, EDUCATION, RESEARCH and HOPE.
EBCI MEDICAL ADVISORY BOARD SPEAKS UP
Genomic Testing, Immunotherapy and Precision Medicine
The EndBrainCancer Initiative (formerly the Chris Elliott Fund) and I are fortunate to partner with a network of clinical experts, who belong to our Medical Advisory Board. Rather than focusing on the limitations of Standard of Care for GBM, our experts discuss the possibilities of emerging diagnostics and therapies that newly diagnosed GBM patients, including Senator McCain, have potential access to if they do not settle for Standard of Care for this disease, and desire to be aggressive in their treatment. In working with our organization and our “Direct Connect” and Clinical Trial pre-qualification programs, we can facilitate immediate access to these advanced treatments. This is truly a glass half-full!
Dr. Mitchel S. Berger, world-renowned neurosurgeon and glioblastoma expert at the University of California, San Francisco, reports “The tumor should be genetically sequenced to look for mutations indicating that the cancer might be especially sensitive to a certain drug, possibly an experimental one”. Cancer biomarkers associated with genetic mutations can be used to predict how well a particular tumor’s biology might respond to a given drug. When comparing the experience of Senator Ted Kennedy less than 10 years ago, Dr. Berger states, “The difference now versus then is that we’re much more cautiously optimistic”.
Two new avenues of research are especially promising: immunotherapy — drugs and vaccines that teach the immune system to attack the tumor, and precision medicine — analyzing the genetics of each tumor to ascertain which drugs will be most effective in combatting it.
Dr. Manmeet Ahluwalia, neuro-oncologist at Cleveland Clinic shares his thoughts on immunotherapy and vaccines as well… “The brain tumor community is very united in our quest for finding better treatments for our patients, and I think the progress will come through clearly planned and orchestrated clinical trials, looking at both approaches, immunotherapies … and appropriate uses of targeted therapies, which will go and attack the genes that drive a particular tumor.” As for potential vaccine options, “the hope is that we are using vaccines to keep the tumor from coming back,” he said.
Immunotherapies can come in many forms — vaccines, antibody or cellular therapies, or drugs — and can be received through an injection, a pill or capsule, a topical ointment or cream, or a catheter.
“There is a great deal of excitement about some of the immunotherapy-based approaches in treatment of glioblastoma,” Ahluwalia said. “Immunotherapy has been shown to be promising in a number of other cancers, like lung cancer and melanoma. We are currently evaluating a number of such approaches. The ones which are most furthest along are some trials that are evaluating nivolumab, which is an anti-PD1 therapy in combination with chemotherapy and radiation.”
In other words, the immunotherapy drug nivolumab unleashes an immune system attack on cancer by blocking the activation of a protein called PD-1, which would otherwise inhibit that attack, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center. The hope is to extend the life of the patients with this treatment.
The most powerful messages of hope, however, come from the patients themselves. Jessica Morris, who is currently battling GBM shares, “There are reasons for HOPE. The advent of immunotherapy treatments, coupled with greater understanding of our genetic profiles, promises a new era of treatment in which our bodies heal themselves. But those of us now in the throes of the disease don’t have the luxury of time for the results of trials. For Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., or for Senator Edward M. Kennedy before him — both glioblastoma patients — the vaunted advances in medical science did not come soon enough”.
The EndBrainCancer Initiative and I are honored to share in the GBM journey with our brave patients and families, as well as our gifted clinical colleagues. We celebrate the advances made, and have HOPE for the ones to come and truly, we are here to assist with Senator McCain’s health and treatment and others if called upon.
For more informaton, contact us at EndBrainCancer.org.
Dellann Elliott Mydland
Founder and President