AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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Immunotherapy, Gene Therapy Combination Shows Promise Against Glioblastoma

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“Devastating” and “dismal.” That is how leading researchers describe the present outlook for malignant brain tumors. The median survival rate for patients with glioblastoma, or GBM, is a mere 14.2 months. New research out of the University of Michigan supports combining two approaches to fight back against gliomas: attacking the tumor with gene therapy while enhancing the immune system’s ability to fight it, too. “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,” says Maria Castro, PhD, co-senior author and U-M professor of neurosurgery and cell and developmental biology. Tumors escape from the fighter T-cells that would otherwise attack them, by tricking the immune system and making an environment ripe for tumor growth. The goal of cancer immunotherapy, with several treatment options now approved by the FDA, is to spark the immune system back into action. Once the immune cells recognize the cancer cells, they are empowered to attack and kill them.

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