In a new research recently published in Nature magazine, scientists are optimistic that they have managed to find a vaccine against malignant brain tumors. So far, the most effective methods to fight cancer are chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which fight tumor cells to prevent them from proliferating.
The positive point, in case this discovery is materialized, is that the body itself will be responsible to suffer some mutations, to alert the danger, when it is sick. After all, this will be the immune system response after receiving a vaccine dose.
Genetic mutations in brain tumor
In scientific circles, these tumors are called diffuse gliomas. Due to their complexity, it is almost impossible to remove them by surgery, so it is necessary for the patient to undergo several rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Even though they affect different people, these tumors have similar characteristics in terms of their genetic error.
In about 70% of the patients affected with this disease, the error found is in the DNA molecule, where the enzyme IDH1 (isocitrate dehydrogenase 1) has in its protein constitution, an exchange in its block structure.
Related: Study shows why human brains are so big
In this way, instead of a standard enzyme, a new one ends up being created, also known as a neoepitope. These new structures, by being different from those present in the organism, put the immune system on alert, causing them to recognize this structure as being a pathogen.
The IDH1 mutation is seen as the key to finding the vaccine against brain tumours, since it is a very specific alteration, which does not occur in healthy tissue, only where this mutated enzyme is present. Therefore, if IDH1 is responsible for causing the problem, the only way to reverse it is to try to inhibit or deactivate it.
Vaccine research and effectiveness
According to the research conducted in 2019, the vaccine made with a specific peptide had been able to stop the growth of mutated cancer cells (IDH1) in mice. Already in the most recent version, the project was conducted with 33 people, where 30 of them had their immune responses studied.
Over the course of the observations, there was no manifestation of any side effects and 93% of the patients had their immune system demonstrate a specific brain tumor account response.
Related: Brain cells survive for 24 hours after death
According to Michael Platten, division head of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), "We cannot draw any additional conclusions about the vaccine's efficacy from this first study without a control group. The safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine were so convincing that we are continuing to pursue the vaccine concept in another Phase I study."
Evolution of the 33 patients since first diagnosis. Some important stages, such as vaccine administration (dark gray), tumor pseudoprogression (red circles) or cancer stabilization (green squares), are shown. (Michael Platten et al. 2021)
As for the survival rate, doctors say that 83% of patients, manage to survive around 3 years after the start of treatment. Meanwhile, in 63% of patients, the brain tumor has not progressed during that same period of time.