The Promising Results of Immunotherapy

Cancer in the brain or nervous system can be a devastating diagnosis for both kids and adults. Though there’s been little change in the treatment options for malignant brain tumors over the last 20 years, new research into the effectiveness of immunotherapy is quite promising.

As a renowned brain surgeon, Christopher A. Duma, MD, FACS, is continuing his research into immunotherapy for the treatment of cancerous brain tumors. To date, his use of conventional cancer therapies, immunotherapy, and other biologic techniques is showing promising results for his patients.

An overview of malignant brain tumors

There are several types of malignant brain tumors, each referred to by the place where the cancerous cells originate. The most common types of brain cancer Dr. Duma treats include:


Meningioma is a tumor that begins in the thin membranes that cover your spinal cord and brain.


An astrocytoma begins in the astrocytes, cells that contribute to the transportation of nutrients and in cell repair.


Glioblastoma forms in the astrocytes and is the most aggressive type of brain cancer. Those diagnosed with a glioblastoma typically have a low survival rate – typically one year following a diagnosis. About 5% of patients with a glioblastoma live five years.

To improve life expectancy rates in those with aggressive brain tumors, immunotherapy is continually being researched by Dr. Duma and other medical experts.

Standard treatment options for malignant brain tumors

Traditionally, brain tumor treatments involved chemotherapy and radiation to destroy cancerous cells and brain tumor surgery to remove cancerous tumors.

Now, advances in immunotherapy show promise for increasing life expectancy and long-term survival rates of those with brain tumors, particularly glioblastomas and late-stage astrocytomas. Immunotherapy is a class of drugs that support your immune system’s ability to destroy cancer cells.

Dr. Duma uses immunotherapy in conjunction with traditional radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. His protocol involves a total tumor resection using stereotactic neuronavigation techniques when possible. If a resection isn’t possible, Dr. Duma may perform a stereotactic, MRI-guided biopsy.

Gamma Knife™ radiosurgery is used to remove tumor tracts and improve your rate of survival followed by five to six weeks of radiation. Based on the results of a chemosensitivity assay, Dr. Duma may start you on chemotherapy to destroy remaining tumor cells.

How immunotherapy can treat malignant tumors

Following standard protocol, Dr. Duma involves immunotherapy for the treatment of brain tumors. This treatment focuses on the IL-2 (cytokine), a type of chemical messenger that improves your immune system’s response to tumor cells.

Producing cytokines involves placing two foreign white blood cells together (yours and an unrelated donor). This mix of cells then incubates in a lab for three days to stimulate the production of seven different cytokines.

Dr. Duma places the resulting cytokines in the tumor bed during a tumor resection. The white cell mixture can then break the immunosuppressive barrier and assist your body with destroying abnormal tumor cells.

Immunotherapy along with radiation therapy may double your life expectancy. When used along with chemotherapy, immunotherapy has shown to add several more months to the median survival rate.

To learn more about the benefits of immunotherapy for the treatment of a brain tumor, schedule a diagnostic evaluation by calling the office of Christopher A. Duma, MD, FACS, or by requesting an appointment online today.

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