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Personalized Vaccines to Fight Brain Cancer

By UCSF Today | February 7, 2007

UCSF neurosurgeon Andrew Parsa, MD, PhD, is running a clinical trial on patients with glioblastoma multiforme, the most deadly type of brain tumor, using a vaccine made from the patient's own tumor to trigger the immune system.

In the clinical trial, Parsa first removes as much of the tumor as he can, and then sends it to a biotech company where a vaccine, Oncophage, is created from an individual tumor's healthy protein, then injected back into the same patient. Using a proprietary manufacturing process, the heat shock protein gp96 and its associated peptides are isolated from the tumor. The complexes are extracted and purified from each sample, then sterilely filtered and placed into vials. The final product is subject to extensive quality-control testing, including sterility testing of each lot. The vaccine is shipped frozen back to the hospital pharmacy for use when the patient has recovered from surgery.

"Our hope is that by using our vaccines, we can make the immune system of the patient fight the cancer and, by fighting the cancer, we can give them a long-term cure," Parsa said. "It's exciting. We're seeing something for the first time. It's like man walking on the moon." When the tumor is removed, Parsa said the space it leaves fills up with spinal fluid. He said each customized vaccine would only work on the patient it came from.

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