How Immunotherapy Harnesses Your Immune System to Battle Brain Tumors

Christopher Duma, MD, FACS, Brain Surgeon, we’ve developed a treatment protocol using conventional cancer therapies combined

Immunotherapy is the newest frontier in treating brain tumors, and it shows incredible promise. At Christopher Duma, MD, FACS, Brain Surgeon, we’ve developed a treatment protocol using conventional cancer therapies combined with immunotherapy. Our results show that immunotherapy offers hope for complete remission and long-term survival for patients with brain tumors. 

Immunotherapy facts

 Your immune system uses a vast army of white blood cells and proteins to identify foreign substances like bacteria and mount an attack to neutralize and eliminate the threat. When it comes to fighting cancer, however, your immune system is at a disadvantage.

Since cancer starts in your body’s own cells, the immune system doesn’t always recognize it as a threat. Even worse, cancer cells have the ability to block an immune attack.

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment designed to boost the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. Some of these medications stimulate the entire system to work harder, while others mimic immune system components like proteins.

One type of immunotherapy relies on a group of medications called monoclonal antibodies. Your immune system normally makes antibodies that identify foreign and harmful substances. Monoclonal antibodies are made in the lab, where they’re designed to support your immune system with highly targeted roles, such as:

Immunotherapy is an emerging field. Some medications are available, while many more are in clinical trials, where their safety and effectiveness are tested before they’re released on the market. 

Immunotherapy treatments targeting brain tumors

A look at several types of immunotherapy helps you see exactly how these treatments can help battle brain tumors:  

CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T cell therapy

T cells are white blood cells that destroy harmful substances. We can use your blood to engineer T cells, then we infuse the cells back into your body to boost your immune attack against brain cancer. CAR T cell therapy for advanced brain tumors like glioblastoma is currently being developed and improved. 

Immune checkpoint inhibitors

Your body has a protective system of checkpoints to ensure that your immune system only attacks harmful invaders. The checkpoints consist of molecules that must be activated before your immune system will attack.

Unfortunately, cancer cells take advantage of these checkpoints, using them to block an immune response. One group of immunotherapy medications, immune checkpoint inhibitors, bypass this problem, freeing your immune system to fight cancer. Several of these drugs are being tested for their ability to fight brain tumors. 

Treatment vaccines

Treatment vaccines are specially engineered in the lab based on the mutations that exist in your specific brain tumor. When your vaccine is injected, it gives your natural T cells the ability to recognize the cancer as a foreign substance rather than part of a normal cell. 

Exceptional results using mixed lymphocyte culture immunotherapy 

We offer a treatment protocol that gives patients hope for complete remission, even when they’re diagnosed with the most challenging brain tumors such as anaplastic astrocytoma, glioblastoma multiforme, and other malignant gliomas.

Our therapy takes advantage of the full arsenal of brain cancer treatments — tumor resection, stereotactic biopsy, Gamma Knife® radiosurgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy — and then we combine these conventional treatments with an advanced type of immunotherapy: mixed lymphocyte culture (MLC).

MLC is produced by mixing your white blood cells with those of an unrelated donor. As a result, new cytokines develop. Cytokines are chemical messengers that enhance the immune system’s attack on brain tumors. We place your MLC into the tumor bed and the cytokines go to work, triggering your immune system to destroy the cancer cells.

Here’s the amazing news: We’ve followed patients who received MLC for more than two decades and 25% of them are in complete remission with no evidence of active disease. 

We currently treat all patients with newly diagnosed brain tumors using our protocol that incorporates conventional therapies with various immunotherapy techniques, including MLC. Some patients who have only gone through the first three phases of our seven-phase protocol are in remission.

If you’re interested in receiving this innovative and promising treatment, call our office at (949) 209-9232 to schedule an appointment to talk about your options, or send your films and a short medical history to Christopher Duma, MD, FACS, and we’ll review your case and get back to you with recommendations.




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