Do Brain Tumors Respond to Immunotherapy?

by Karen Gaudette Brewer 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.

All low grade and high grade gliomas are treated with surgery. Low grade gliomas may be sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation. Radiation therapy to an intact glioma or surgical cavity after resection would not routinely cause headaches or 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

Karen Gaudette Brewer
Meet Our Writer
Karen Gaudette Brewer

Karen Gaudette Brewer is an author and longtime journalist with an extensive background in public policy, government, food, and wellness. She's the Executive Editor emeritus of HealthCentral following staff roles at, The Seattle Times, and The Associated Press. She's honored to help illuminate the daily experiences of those who live with invisible illnesses to increase understanding and ease stigma.