Do Brain Tumors Respond to Immunotherapy?

Contributing Editor

Immunotherapy enlists parts of our immune systems to fight diseases like melanoma, lymphoma, and other cancers, and it may also help treat slow-growing brain tumors, a study led by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons shows.

About 100,000 people in the United States live with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a heredity disease that can lead to tumors throughout the nervous system, including glioma, a difficult-to-treat type of brain tumor. Most gliomas are:

  • Resistant to chemotherapy
  • Grow in delicate parts of the brain that make surgery a rare option
  • Respond to radiotherapy by giving patients more intense headaches and seizures

In the study, researchers from 25 institutions around the globe analyzed NF1 brain tumors from 56 patients to create the first comprehensive inventory of genetic, epigenetic, and immune alternations — knowledge that can help scientists develop targeted therapies. They discovered that, unlike most brain tumors, half of the NF1 gliomas contained few of the type of cells that can defend against the immune system’s attack. This makes them good candidates for treatment with immunotherapy, and clinical trials are now being planned.

Source: Nature Medicine