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Remarkable Cancer Breakthrough Shows Woman's Brain Tumor Almost Disappear In Just Five Days

This is huge for the future of cancer treatment.

The results are pretty astounding. (Mass general Brigham)

Researchers have discovered the 'dramatic responses' that three cancer patients experienced using a novel form of treatment.

In order to treat patients with a specific kind of recurring deadly brain cancer and determine whether or not the cell therapy is safe, researchers at the Mass General Cancer Center collaborated with Mass General neurosurgeons to develop a novel CAR-T therapy known as CAR-TEAM cells.

Phase I of the clinical trial was carried out by the researchers from March to July 2023, testing the novel medication on three recurrent glioblastoma patients: a 57-year-old woman and two males, ages 72 and 74.

According to the Mayo Clinic, glioblastoma is "a type of cancer that starts as a growth of cells in the brain or spinal cord."

It adds: "It grows quickly and can invade and destroy healthy tissue. Glioblastoma forms from cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells."

The Treatment

A novel method of CAR-T therapy called CARv3-TEAM-E T cells was used to treat the three patients.

As per the NHS, CAR-T therapy is tailored to each patient's unique needs and targets the patient's malignancy by reprogramming the patient's immune system cells. "It is a highly complex and potentially risky treatment but it has been shown in trials to cure some patients, even those with quite advanced cancers and where other available treatments have failed," it states.

Although CAR-T therapy has been approved for use on blood malignancies, things can get more complicated when it comes to solid tumors like glioblastoma.

The researchers then combined the TEAM (T-cell engaging antibody molecules) and CAR-T methods to create CARv3-TEAM-E T cells.

The cells are 'chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells engineered to target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) variant III tumor-specific antigen, as well as the wild-type EGFR protein, through secretion of a T-cell–engaging antibody molecule (TEAM)'.

In essence, the therapy is a type of cell therapy that targets "mixed cell populations within tumors." The goal of the experiment is to improve the therapy's viability and safety, especially for people who have glioblastoma.

Mass General Brigham explains: "Patients’ T cells were collected and transformed into the new version of CAR-TEAM cells, which were then infused back into each patient. Patients were monitored for toxicity throughout the duration of the study."

The Results

The results are pretty astounding. (Mass general Brigham)
The results are pretty astounding. (Mass general Brigham)

When it came to the patients' tumor sizes, the outcomes were quite astounding.

"Just days after a single treatment, patients experienced dramatic reductions in their tumors, with one patient achieving near-complete tumor regression," Brigham says.

Five days after a single CAR-TEAM infusion, the 57-year-old woman's cells 'showed near-complete tumor regression,' while the 72-year-old man's MRI two days later showed 'a drop in the size by 18.5 percent' and by day 69, '60.7 percent' reduction."And the reaction persisted for more than half a year."

And the 74-year-old man's blood and cerebrospinal fluid 'showed a decrease in EGFRvIII and EGFR copy numbers, eventually becoming undetectable' after a similar single infusion.

Although all patients "tolerated the infusions well," they did all experience fevers and "altered mental status soon after infusion." Nevertheless, these side effects were "expected," and the treatment's total risk was deemed to be no greater than "grade three or dose-limiting toxic effects."

Bryan Choi, a neurosurgeon and associate director of the Department of Neurosurgery, the Cellular Immunotherapy Program, the Mass General Cancer Center, and the Center for Brain Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy, stated: "The CAR-T platform has revolutionized how we think about treating patients with cancer, but solid tumors like glioblastoma have remained challenging to treat because not all cancer cells are exactly alike and cells within the tumor vary. Our approach combines two forms of therapy, allowing us to treat glioblastoma in a broader, potentially more effective way."

Marcela Maus added: "These results are exciting, but they are also just the beginning—they tell us that we are on the right track in pursuing a therapy that has the potential to change the outlook for this intractable disease. We haven’t cured patients yet, but that is our audacious goal."

Co-author on the study - published in The New England Journal of Medicine - Elizabeth Gerstner said: "We report a dramatic and rapid response in these three patients. Our work to date shows signs that we are making progress, but there is more to do."