Brain Tumor Program: Immunotherapy (Brain Tumor Vaccine)

When you are undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, there can be a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes tumors come back, even after receiving the best available treatments. You may feel as if the deck is stacked against you, but with our UC Irvine Health brain tumor experts, you are not out of options.

Immunotherapy, also known as biologic therapy, treats disease using living organisms. Vaccines are a promising new form of immunotherapy that stimulates the immune system to fight cancer.

We have one of the nation’s largest brain tumor vaccine programs. This experimental treatment harnesses the power of your own immune system (immunotherapy) to find and attack cancer cells.

Innovating brain tumor vaccines

There are currently no approved vaccines for brain tumors, but our experts are looking to change that. We are among an elite group of researchers expanding access to brain tumor vaccines through clinical trials.

Highlights of our brain tumor vaccine program include:

  • A broad range of options: We are testing not just one, but four different vaccines, some of which are only available here. Learn more about research and clinical trials ›
  • Better outcomes: As brain tumor vaccine pioneers, our depth of experience is helping patients to not only survive, but also to thrive. Some of our patients are still going strong three years after their first vaccine treatment. Read more: Brain tumor vaccine patient beating the odds ›
  • Recognized research expertise: Our cancer center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in Orange County. We are one of only 47 centers in the nation with this prestigious designation, demonstrating our innovative research, high-quality safety standards and excellent patient outcomes. Learn more about the benefits of NCI designation ›
  • Patient support: Whether you need someone to talk to or you think you may need a helping hand once you return home, we are here for you. We offer a broad range of support services, including support groups and social workers who can connect you with community resources. Our goal is to relieve some of the stress that can go along with brain tumor treatment. Learn more about our patient support services ›

How do brain tumor vaccines work?

Our researchers are at the forefront of developing vaccines to help destroy trace levels of tumor cells that remain after surgery.

Here is how brain tumor vaccines work:

  • Your immune system is made up of cells, blood proteins (antibodies), and organs that protect the body against foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses.
  • The immune system has the ability to distinguish between healthy cells and cancer cells, but it needs a little help.
  • Vaccine therapy uses your own tissue to train your immune system to recognize and attack brain tumor cells.
  • We obtain tissue (biopsy) from the brain tumor during a surgical procedure. Learn more about our neurosurgery program ›
  • We use cells from the biopsy to develop your very own vaccine.
  • You receive regular injections of the vaccine, which over time strengthens your body’s natural immune response to fight cancer cells.

Benefits of brain tumor vaccines

Brain tumor vaccines offer a lifeline to patients with aggressive tumors, such as glioblastomas, that are hard to eliminate. You may be nervous about trying an experimental treatment, but vaccines offer many potential benefits. The benefits of brain tumor vaccines include:

  • Quick treatments that cause little discomfort: Receiving vaccine therapy is just like getting a shot. You may feel discomfort as we inject the needle into your skin, but it is over quickly.
  • Few or no side effects: Most people taking the vaccine experience minimal side effects. Some people experience an occasional itch or mild sting at the injection site.
  • Longer survival: Our studies are showing that patients on vaccines are surviving significantly longer than patients who do not receive the vaccine.
  • Allowing you to receive other treatments: Patients who receive brain tumor vaccines are typically able to receive additional treatments, including new therapies available through other clinical trials. Participating in multiple clinical trials may give you greater chances for the best outcomes.

Contact us

To schedule an appointment, call 714-456-8000 or fill out an online request form. You may also send us an email.

Our 24-hour promise: If you are a new patient, one of our brain tumor physicians will return your call within 24 hours and you can be seen in our offices within 48 hours after insurance approval.