PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There’s a revolutionary new treatment for a deadly brain cancer. A Philadelphia team of doctors and scientists released a new study that shows something that’s never been seen before, giving a patient from New Jersey a second chance at life.
Glioblastoma is the brain cancer that killed Beau Biden, Tug McGraw, and John McCain. Now, for the first time, there’s a vaccine developed here that’s working better than expected.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Dr. David Andrews, neurosurgeon at Jefferson Health.
The scans show glioblastoma, the deadliest kind of brain cancer, disappearing.
Dr. Andrews and a company he created, called Imvax, have developed a new treatment that’s showing tremendous promise and giving hope to patients like Carol Fisher.
“I love it. I feel like a real pioneer, a crusader, it’s wonderful,” said Fisher.
Fisher, who lives in South Jersey with her husband, was diagnosed with glioblastoma two-and-a-half years ago.
“It was like a death sentence being given to us,” said husband Bill Fisher.
Patients diagnosed with glioblastoma are usually gone in 14 months.
“In terms of overall survival, we saw significant improvement,” said Dr. Andrews.
Carol Fisher was one of 33 patients who tested a new immunotherapy, a vaccine for glioblastoma.
The vaccine is made from the brain tumor right after it’s surgically removed. The tumor cells are engineered to attack the left over microscopic cancer.
“One chamber will hold a million cells,” said Dr. Andrews.
The vaccine goes into a diffusion chamber that’s implanted in the patient’s abdomen. As the contents spread in the body, the immune system gets reprogrammed to kill cancer.
“I was very excited with the thought of being a participant in something that was on the frontier and that might give me hope,” said Fisher.
Until it’s proven, the immune therapy works alone. Patients still have the standard radiation and chemotherapy, but they usually don’t work.
The new research shows the combination is extending life for Fisher and others.
Carol and Bill Fisher are now working on their dream retirement home, with a big garden, and have plans for a future they thought had been stolen.
While this first round of research looks good, they need more. Dr. Andrews tell CBS3 there’s preliminary evidence the therapy could also work for others malignancies, including pancreatic and lung cancer.