Early Immunotherapy for Low-Grade Glioma

Professor, Neurosurgery

University of California, Los Angeles

Robert Prins, PhD

University of California, Los Angeles

Title: Optimizing dendritic cell vaccination for low-grade glioma patients
Investigators: Robert Prins and Linda Liau
Grantee: University of California Los Angeles

Vaccines that train the immune system to recognize and eliminate foreign invaders offer a powerful, personalized weapon in the fight against cancer.  To specialize this weapon for use in brain cancer, Dr. Robert Prins and Dr. Linda Liau (University of California Los Angeles) are developing an anti-tumor vaccine called DCVax.

DCVax is a personalized vaccine that activates the body’s natural defenses against brain tumors.  The vaccine relies on special “bloodhound” cells in the immune system that are dedicated to sniffing out foreign invaders.  Doctors distill these bloodhound cells from the patient’s blood and mix them, outside of the body, with that same patient’s brain tumor cells—thereby giving the bloodhound cells the “scent” of the patient’s tumor.  In this way, the patient's own immune system is trained to hunt down and kill any and all brain tumor cells.  In fact, DCVax has already shown remarkable signs of success in clinical trials for advanced glioma.

However, most vaccine-based therapies have only been able to provide temporary control of brain tumors.  This may be because anti-tumor vaccines typically aren’t introduced until late in the course of brain cancer progression, by which time tumors are extremely aggressive and hard to kill.  Drs. Prins and Liau believe that introducing anti-tumor vaccines early, before brain tumors become so aggressive that killing them is an uphill battle, could improve long-term tumor control.

To test this idea, ABC2 partnered with Miles for Hope (now Brain Tumor Alliance) and the Stephen M. Coffman Charitable Trust in 2011 to fund an early-stage clinical trial of DCVax in low-grade brain cancer.  The primary goals of this trial are to determine the safety and effectiveness of DCVax in low-grade glioma and to establish whether early treatment enhances the vaccine’s effects on the immune system.

If this work is successful, it will pave the way for future studies of early-intervention, personalized DCVax immunotherapy as a treatment for brain cancer.