Glioblastoma multiforme is the most aggressive and deadly type of brain tumor. The recurrence rate is almost 100 percent at six to seven months following surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
James Green is beating those odds by a long shot. Since 2012, the 70-year-old has been participating in a brain tumor vaccine clinical trial at the UC Irvine Health Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program.
“I am thrilled with the trial,” he said. “Being in it has saved my life.”
Vaccine extends length and quality of life
It is impossible to ever remove a glioblastoma tumor entirely, because it is surrounded by a zone of migrating tumor cells that infiltrate the surrounding tissues. The latest advances in treatment, including Green’s experimental vaccine, are extending the length and enhancing the quality of life for these patients by significantly delaying tumor progression.
Green visits the UC Irvine Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center every two weeks for his chemotherapy infusion and vaccine, under the care of Dr. Daniela Bota and Dr. Jose Carrillo. Vaccines are an immunotherapy, which means that certain parts of the patient’s own immune system are used to fight the cancer.
“When my tumor came back, I was so lucky to have found this team of doctors,” Green said. “Glioblastoma is such a hard cancer to keep away, and I am sure it is the vaccine that has kept it from progressing.”
Vaccine attacks specific molecule
Green’s treatment is two injections, administered on the inside of his thigh. The vaccine is designed to attack only a specific type of protein molecule in his tumor, which occurs in about 30 percent of glioblastoma patients. He says that he hasn’t experienced any adverse side effects, other than an occasional slight itch and mild sting at the injection sites.
Participating in the trial has also provided Green, an avid photographer, with a new subject: his vaccine injection sites. Bota is a big fan of his work.
“Mr. Green is such a good patient,” she said. “He keeps the pictures in a binder, so we’ve been able to see what his injection sites look like all throughout the trial.”