Research out of University of Michigan Proposes A Two-Fold Approach to Treating GBM

With the knowledge that the median survival rate for patients with glioblastoma multiforme, (GBM), is only 14.2 months, as discussed in yesterday’s post.  The words used to describe the outlook for the diagnosis of these tumors is often described as “dismal.”

However, new research out of the University of Michigan suggests a two-fold approach to fighting these tumors: attacking it with gene therapy while enhancing the immune system’s ability to fight it as well.

Maria Castro, Ph.D., co-senior author of the research recently publish in Molecular Therapy and U-M professor of neurosurgery and cell and developmental biology says, “We hope the implementation of our gene therapy strategy for gliomas, used in combination with immune checkpoint blockade, will eventually provide successful treatment for patients with this devastating brain cancer.”

Tumors find a way around the fighter T-cells that would normally attack them by tricking the immune system and creating an environment ripe for tumor growth.

The objective for cancer immunotherapy, with several options that are now FDA approved, is to spark the immune system into action.  Once the immune cells recognize the cancer cells, they will attack.

Pedro Lowenstein, M.D., Ph.D., co-senior author puts it this way: “Immune checkpoint inhibitors amplify T-cell responses and are currently being tested in the clinic to increase T-cell-mediated tumor killing.”

The U-M team used immune checkpoint blockade combined with gene therapy to block the cancer cells from hijacking the host immune system.

Castro and Lowenstein’s team combined the immune checkpoint blockade approach with gene therapy.

This involves injecting adenovirus vectors carrying herpes simplex 1 thymidine kinase into the tumor, followed by an antiviral, to cause tumor cell death. This was used in combination with another adenovirus vector carrying an immune stimulatory protein, cytokine, to recruit immune cells into the tumor.

To read more about their treatment plan and how they’ve implemented it, click here.

To read more about this on the University’s site, click here.