Saturday, August 19

UCLA researchers develop new immunotherapy for advanced brain cancer


Robert M. Prins, leader of the cancer research team that discovered effective immunity to glioblastoma requires a robust killer T cell response in order to attenuate immune cells within the tumor.(Courtesy of Robert Prins)

Robert M. Prins, leader of the cancer research team that discovered effective immunity to glioblastoma requires a robust killer T cell response in order to attenuate immune cells within the tumor.(Courtesy of Robert Prins)


UCLA researchers have developed a new combination immunotherapy to treat advanced brain cancer.

The combination treatment works by preventing brain cancer cells from shielding themselves from a patient’s own immune responses.

The three-year study, published Thursday, found that antibody blocking of an immune cell’s PD-1 surface receptors combined with a dendritic cell vaccine is more effective than using either one alone. Previous studies have shown these surface receptors to suppress normal immune response while dendritic cell vaccinations induce normal immune response, through intracranial immune cell activation.

Robert M. Prins, leader of the cancer research and member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, said he and his team discovered that effective immunity to glioblastoma requires a robust killer T cell response in order to attenuate immune cells within the tumor.

Although PD-1 antibody blockade removes the shield that glioblastomas activate to hide from a patient’s immune system, it may not be successful by itself in tumors that do not have sufficient infiltration of killer T cells, a type of white blood cell that lyses cancer cells. The dendritic cell vaccination allows necessary infiltration of these killer T cells into the tumors. Thus, the two combined treatment of both vaccine and antibody blockade allow for a more effective immunotherapy.

Glioblastoma constitutes about 15.4 percent of all primary brain tumors, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. Most people who are diagnosed face a median survival rate of 14.6 months.

The research findings are the first to outline how an effective immune response can be activated in the advanced brain cancer, said Prins.

Prins and Linda Liau, another leader of the research team, have filed to obtain a patent on the glioblastoma vaccine combination treatment.

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Science & Health editor

Chiu is the assistant news editor for the Science & Health beat. She covers the UCLA Health system and UCLA-related research. She was previously a National and Higher Education news contributor covering state, national and international news.


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  • BeaverTales

    How interested is the Prins/Liau team in stage 2 and 3 tumors? The tumor ecology of grade 4 lineages may be too diverse to create an effective vaccine. Lower grade tumors are probably more biochemically homogeneous, making them more amenable to a single vaccine protocol.