TAMPA, Fla. – On Father’s Day Steve Stack had a life-changing experience. He suffered a seizure, was rushed to an emergency room and was told he had glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Stack’s doctors in Northeast Georgia told him to start thinking about his “bucket list.”
Frustrated by a lack of treatment options and realizing his healthcare team did not share his own positive outlook, Stack decided to pursue a second opinion.
“Moffitt Cancer Center appeared to have the latest advancement in technology along with the promising clinical study options. Through a network of friends, we were able get an immediate appointment,” explained Stack.
Moffitt is conducting a Phase III clinical study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a type of immunotherapy used to treat an aggressive form of brain cancer, like the type Stack was diagnosed with. The drug, DCVax®-L, is undergoing the approval process by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of glioblastoma multiforme, the most common form of brain cancer in adults.
Patients diagnosed with glioblastoma experience a high rate of tumor recurrence and progression, despite treatment with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Most glioblastoma patients who have been treated do not live beyond 14 months.
The DCVax-L vaccine offers an additional option. The treatment trains the patient’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. During treatment, a portion of the patient’s tumor cells are removed. The cells are then used to generate tumor proteins. Next, immune cells are isolated from the patient’s bloodstream. These immune cells are then mixed with tumor proteins, so the cells can recognize the tumor as foreign.
Once the immune cells are trained to recognize the tumor as foreign, the immune cells are injected back into the patient; they will travel throughout the body and destroy any glioblastoma cells remaining after surgery.
After having his own immune cells removed, Stack underwent an awake craniotomy to remove his tumor. He was kept awake during the operation to ensure the healthy parts of his brain were not compromised during surgery. Now, he is taking part in the DCVax-L clinical trial.
“The day before my 52nd birthday, my tumor was removed. My experience on the DCVax trial has been effortless. My team at Moffitt coordinates all my appointments around my chemotherapy and radiation, while keeping my family and myself well-informed on all information and qualifications regarding the trial,” said Stack.
Neurosurgeon Arnold Etame, M.D., Ph.D., will lead the DCvax-L study at Moffitt, and he is looking for other newly diagnosed patients to take part.
“This vaccine is patient-specific and offers a personalized treatment experience for people with limited options. Traditional ways of treating cancer have not been effective for patients diagnosed with glioblastoma. Training a patient’s own cells to attack and fight tumors gives him or her a much better prognosis,” explained Etame.
In early stage clinical trials conducted at the University of California Los Angeles, patients treated with the DCVax-L vaccine saw their median survival increased to 33.8 months and some patients had no recurrence of their cancer beyond 45 months.
About Moffitt Cancer Center
Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the No. 1 cancer hospital in Florida and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” for cancer since 1999. With more than 4,200 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact on the state of nearly $2 billion. For more information, visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.