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Hope for brain cancer patients with world-first clinical trial in Brisbane

A world-first immunotherapy treatment has offered hope for patients diagnosed with incurable brain cancer.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in partnership with The Newro Foundation is conducting a novel immunotherapy clinical trial targeting a type of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), in patients at the Wesley-St Andrew’s Research Institute.

There is currently no cure for brain cancer and GBM is the most common and malignant of the glial tumours. About 150 people are diagnosed in Brisbane every year. Sadly the life expectancy of a person diagnosed with GBM is just one year.

The first GBM patient will be administered killer T-cell immunotherapy this Thursday 24 September. QIMR Berghofer lead researcher and renowned tumour immunologist Professor Rajiv Khanna, who developed this therapy in collaboration with neurosurgeon Professor David Walker at Newro Foundation, said immunotherapy had great potential to target GBM.

“This is the new frontier in cancer treatment,” Professor Khanna said.

“We hope it will soon become part of the normal treatment, alongside chemotherapy and radiation.

“One of the major advantages of immunotherapy is it doesn’t have the nasty side effects that chemotherapy or radiotherapy has.

“This therapy is designed to train a patient’s own T-cells to fight cancer.”

The trial involves taking a blood sample from a patient newly diagnosed with GBM and growing their killer T-cells (a type of white blood cell) in a specialized laboratory. The infused T-cells will aim to give the patient’s immune system a boost to attack the tumour and kill the cancer. Patients are infused over a number of weeks and monitored for 12 months.

QIMR Berghofer Director and CEO Professor Frank Gannon said it was an exciting day for the Institute to see this trial commence.

“QIMR Berghofer is focussed on producing research with outcomes beyond the laboratory, and this is an excellent example of our efforts to get laboratory discoveries through to clinical trials and eventually the hospital bedside,” he said.

Researchers hope the development of this treatment, used in conjunction with standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy, will reduce the rate of tumour recurrence in patients.