European Cancer Congress (ECC): There appeared to be no highly significant new results in the area of CNS tumours presented at the ECC held in Amsterdam, except for reinforcement of the relevance of IDH mutations. Contributions mainly dealt with the finalisation of previously indicated trial results. This is a link to the CNS abstracts.
IBTA representatives were among a large group of high level patient advocates attending the ECC who were appalled at anachronistic Dutch legislation which resulted in banning them from access to the main hall where pharmaceutical companies were exhibiting. Not only were patient advocates banned but anyone who wasn’t a “prescriber” was forbidden from entering the industry exhibition. This included medical journalists and others. Patient advocates were both saddened and enraged at this discrimination and mounted a petition and protest at the Congress. See here for a comprehensive report and a photograph.
The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA): One of the first targets of the TCGA was glioblastoma and a major study was published in 2008. A new study has been published based on tumor samples and molecular data from 559 patients at 17 study sites. The analysis has identified 61 new mutated genes. Two mutations, BRAF and FGFR, are already the target of specific drugs in other contexts.
Meetings and deadlines: The deadline for abstracts for the 16th International Symposium on Pediatric Neuro-Oncology to be held in Singapore during 28 June – 2 July 2014, is 7 February 2014.
The deadline for Abstract submissions to the 11th Meeting of the European Association of NeuroOncology, to be held at Turin, Italy, during 9-12 October 2014, is 23 March 2014.
Coroner criticises UK doctors: A coroner in the UK this month severely criticised doctors at three major hospitals for a “very large number of serious failures” during 2011 in not adequately treating a two year old girl with a brain tumour who developed hydrocephalus and subsequently died.
European Clinical Trials Database: The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has launched an updated version of its Clinical Trials Database (EudraCT) but, as the IBTA has reported previously, it remains behind schedule and is incomplete for patients searching for clinical trials relevant to their condition.
Elderly patients and GBM: The European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and the Canadian NCIC Clinical Trials Group (NCI CTG) have announced that its trial of newly diagnosed GBM patients over 65 years of age, who are not fit for standard treatment, has met its accrual target. Among the 562 randomized patients, 249 were recruited by EORTC, 199 by NCIC CTG, 97 by the Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group in Australia, and 17 patients in Japan. The trial is intended to compare short course radiation therapy versus short course radiation therapy and temozolomide (TMZ). The trial was supported by an educational grant from MSD.
Comment: The trial is an example of the international collaboration already underway among organisations spanning several countries which are seeking better treatments for GBM. The nature of the trial might be very specific (i.e. patients over 65 years of age) but progress is likely to be made by short and careful steps of this nature.
Acoustic neuromas: In a move akin to Internet crowd-sourcing Professor Elizabeth Claus of Yale’s School of Public Health (USA) is employing a peer-driven approach to recruitment of subjects for a study to identify risk factors for acoustic neuroma brain tumours. Dr Claus is currently applying for additional grants to fund the study of this rare and often neglected brain tumour.
Polish research: Polish researchers have discovered in laboratory mouse models that turning off the gene that produces CSF2 protein in glioma cells meant that the tumour cells stopped attracting microglia and were not capable of converting these cells to support the tumour’s development. This enabled the immune system to start working as expected. The research leader Prof. Bożena Kamińska warned that the road to develop relevant drugs and therapies limiting glioma invasiveness is still “very long”.
University Hospital of Navarra research: Researchers at the University Hospital of Navarra will commence trials soon involving the inoculation of GBM patients with a genetically-modified virus (adenovirus delta 24-RGD) followed by temozolomide.
Company developments: A presentation by Dr Wolfgang Wick at the European Cancer Congress about a clinical trial combining radiotherapy with Apogenix’s APG101, which blocks the cell-signalling pathway CD95, and a poster by the Dutch Company to-BBB about its 2B3-101 drug, attracted interest at the European Cancer Congress. (There were 42 CNS-relevant posters presented at the ECC. Go to this searchable on-line facility for the posters and type in “to-BBB”).
Antisense Pharma has changed its name to Isarna Therapeutics GmbH and centralized all its activities at a single location in Munich, Germany.
Bexion Pharamceuticals of Covington (USA) has received a $2.9 m grant from the National Cancer Institute (USA) to conduct a clinical trial of its BXQ-350 nanovesicles.
Agenus has reported further promising results in GBM of its Phase 2 trial of the Prophage Series G-100 (HSPPC-96) vaccine together with standard therapy.
A cardiologist with a GBM: A retired cardiologist with 35 years of practice behind him has written an interesting story in the Washington Post newspaper about his experiences after being diagnosed with a GBM. In undertaking his own research he discovered that 22,000 scientific articles had been written on GBM over the past 40 years. He also found that another cardiologist had collected data on 23 invasive (interventional) radiologists and cardiologists who had developed tumors, of which 17 were GBMs on the left side of the brain (similar to his own situation). He has experienced apparent success from an experimental protocol at Duke University which involved the introduction of a modified polio virus into his brain. In what could be a useful “promotional” tip for radiation therapists he likened the plastic mask he wore during treatment as being “like an Olympic fencing mask”.
Brain metastases and hippocampus: A study of USA and Canadian patients with brain metastases has shown that hippocampal-avoidance whole brain radiotherapy is associated with less memory decline at four months.
Pre-leukaemia drug repurposed for brain tumors: Researchers at Johns Hopkins University (USA) have discovered in mice models the potential efficacy of 5-azacytidene (Vidaza) (FDA-approved to treat myelodysplastic syndrome) to target a gene mutation in brain tumor cells.
No viral cause for glioblastoma: Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy in Sweden, analysing 700 billion DNA sequences from more than 4,000 tumours, have disproved theories of a viral cause for breast cancer and glioblastoma.
Redefining “cancer”: Brain tumour patients have been indirectly disadvantaged by the emphasis of some cancer control and government agencies on screening for cancer. Unlike other cancers one cannot engage in population-based screening for brain tumours without access to an impossibly expensive program of CT brain scanning every six months or thereabouts.
A working party of the National Cancer Institute (USA), conscious of the overdiagnosis and overtreatment in the cancer field resulting from this emphasis, and the anxiety this can cause, now wants to redefine “cancer” so that it is reserved for lesions with a reasonable likelihood of killing the patient if left untreated. A thoughtful article in Forbes Magazine cautions that any redefinition of the word might also have political implications.
Comment: The diagnosis of a brain tumour already carries with it a very powerful and potentially crippling stigma in the general community. Brain tumours would undoubtedly be caught up in this proposed redefinition. The IBTA fears that newly diagnosed patients would be even more greatly stigmatised by this move which could irretrievably damage their sense of “hope” and their adoption of a realistically positive attitude.
Blood-brain barrier: UK researchers have successfully used the tumour necrosis factor (TNF) protein in mouse models to disrupt the blood-brain barrier and permit the introduction of the anti-breast cancer drug trastuzumab to treat brain metastases.
Protein as a mediator: US researchers have identified the protein RIP1 as a mediator of brain tumor cell survival and, hence, as a target for a potential drug treatment.
Single dads due to cancer: This is a link to a 55-minute audio discussion of the problems faced by husbands left to raise children following the death of their wife due to cancer and includes the author of a book “Laughter, Tears and Braids”.
Comment: As we are aware, brain tumours can affect people of all ages and men and women, although the more lethal brain tumours appear to target men slightly more than women. This discussion might be useful for those men who find themselves in the situation of a bereaved spouse left to raise children.
Vinblastine: US scientists have discovered a way of improving the potency of the cancer drug vinblastine by 10 to 200 times. Their discovery also helps overcome drug resistance upon treatment relapse. Vinblastine is used in the treatment of some brain tumours. They will now turn their attention to vincristine, which is also used in connection with some brain tumour treatments.
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Kathy Oliver (Co-Director)
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