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What Is a Glioblastoma Vaccine?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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A glioblastoma vaccine is a type of therapeutic vaccine available to patients with glioblastoma to help them fight their cancer more effectively. Rather than being preventative, this vaccine is part of the treatment process used to manage and hopefully eradicate the patient's cancer. Clinical trials conducted in 2010 and 2011 showed that use of a vaccine could radically improve outcomes for glioblastoma patients. Patient eligibility for a vaccine can depend on the specifics of the cancer and the patient's other health issues.

Patients with glioblastoma typically undergo surgery to remove the tumor, or as much of it as possible, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. One common issue with glioblastoma is recurrence, where the cancer reappears after a period of remission. The glioblastoma vaccine targets this issue by sensitizing the patient's immune system to certain proteins expressed on the surface of the cancer cells. The immune system learns to attack these cells, killing them and preventing the recurrence of cancer.

The vaccine can be tailored to a specific tumor for the most effective treatment. Cancers can be variable, which is one reason their responses to treatment can be so disparate; one patient may respond very well to a chemotherapy medication, for example, while another does not. This is the result of slightly different proteins in the rogue cells responsible for the cancer. When a treatment is tailored to the patient, the medication or vaccine can precisely target that patient's cancer for the best results.

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Part of treatment for glioblastoma can involve a glioblastoma vaccine to help the patient fight the cancer and keep it at bay in the future. A doctor may consider this option if the patient appears to be a good candidate for vaccination. It is not possible to prevent glioblastoma with a vaccination, as the glioblastoma vaccine does not work like preventative vaccines do, by sensitizing the immune system to fight pathogens. Since there is no way to predict precisely what form a glioblastoma might take if it arises, the patient cannot get a preventative treatment.

As long as the glioblastoma vaccine remains in clinical trials, it will not be available to general members of the public. Patients with an interest in experimental treatments under development can talk to their doctors. The doctor can determine if any clinical trials are enrolling patients and can check for eligibility to see if a patient can be referred to a trial. Costs of treatment associated with the vaccine are covered by the trial.

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