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Medical Breakthroughs: Doctors turn tumor cells against cancer cells

Medical Breakthroughs: Doctors turn tumor cells against cancer cells
1 month 1 week 4 days ago Monday, April 15 2024 Apr 15, 2024 April 15, 2024 1:41 PM April 15, 2024 in News

There's a type of brain tumor that's really common and treatment has stayed the same for years.

Now, researchers are looking at ways to make a person's own body attack the tumor.

"My hand, my finger, two fingers got numb," Fran Noonan said.

Those were the first signs something was wrong with Noonan. Not long after, she was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma.

"They gave me anywhere from six months to 14 months to live," Noonan said.

The standard of care for these types of brain tumors hasn't changed in almost 20 years, odds of long-term survival are slim.

"It's about a hundred percent recurrence rate, and it usually occurs around the nine-month mark," Neurosurgical Oncologist Dominque Higgins said.

Now, a team at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill is hoping to turn the patient's own immune system against the tumors.

"It's an interesting approach to, essentially, a personalized tumor vaccine," Higgins said.

Patients undergo brain surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Then, scientists take tumor cells, kill them, and put them in special chambers that contain nucleotides that help to turn on an immune response.

Doctors then insert the dime-sized chambers just under the skin in the abdomen.

"And so, they're basically like little traps for the irradiated tumor cells that are stimulating an immune response," Higgins said.

Two days later, the chambers are removed.

"But now, the immune cells in the body know what a tumor looks like, and they can go on and attack it in the brain," Higgins said.

Killing the cancer cells and giving patients new hope they'll win their battle against Glioblastoma.

The phase two clinical trial is still enrolling patients with newly diagnosed Glioblastomas.

Researchers hope that this technique will not only be used to battle Glioblastomas, but other cancers, in particular, ovarian cancer.

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