Smart immune cells, what’s happening in Germany and a book recommendation

2 min read

A reminder to start with that there is only a week to go (deadline 14th May) to put forward nominations for the BNOS Young Investigator Award, of which Brain Tumour Research is proud to be a joint sponsor, Now’s the time to nudge the colleague who should be putting themselves forward for this.

Immunotherapies have been a life-saving advancement for many cancer patients, but the approach only works on a few types of malignancies, leaving few treatment options for most cancer patients with solid tumours. Two related papers have demonstrated how to engineer smart immune cells that are effective against solid tumours, including Glioblastoma(GBM), opening the door to treating a variety of cancers that have long been untouchable with immunotherapies. By “programming” basic computational abilities into immune cells that are designed to attack cancer, the researchers have overcome a number of major hurdles that have kept these strategies out of the clinic. The two new papers show that the resulting “smart” therapies are more precise, flexible and thorough than previous approaches, and the researchers say that their approach may be ready for clinical trials in the near future.

Researchers have discovered that when tumour cells spread into the protective white matter of the brain, they attempt to repair the damage they are causing by transforming themselves into cells that resemble the white matter they are damaging. Pranlukast (an asthma drug) also contains a molecule that causes brain tumour cells to behave as if they have come into contact with white matter. This could prove to be the basis for an effective treatment for GBM within a decade although the researchers stress that it is very early days.

Lysyl oxidase enzymes play a crucial role in GBM because they attract inflammatory cells that accelerate tumour growth and reduce survival. PXS-5505 is a potent inhibitor of lysyl oxidases and should stop these processes. In this Australian trial PXS-5505 is to enter pre-clinical efficacy testing for glioblastoma

Industry news you can watch on YouTube as Michael Schmainda, co-founder and CEO of IQ-AI Limited's (LON:IQAI) subsidiary Imaging Biometrics presents their plans to finance a trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Gallium Maltolate in the treatment of brain tumours.

If you’d like to know more about Dr. Pallavi Tiwari, who is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and the Director of Brain Image Computing (BrIC) laboratory at Case Western Reserve University, including her motivation for working on brain cancer and her views on women in STEM then this is your chance; How One Scientist Fights Brain Tumours Every Day

Two updates from Germany now;

Firstly, state-of-the-art treatments for brain metastases, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors and targeted therapies, are effective but conventional MRI isn’t strong enough to determine if these approaches are actually working. By adding Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning researchers were able to better diagnose these brain diseases and gauge patients’ response to treatment and so monitoring brain cancer treatments with PET imaging may save patients from unnecessary procedures

Secondly, clinical results about a vaccine targeting mutant IDH1 in newly diagnosed glioma that follow a multicentre, single-arm, open-label, first-in-humans phase I trial that was carried out in 33 patients with newly diagnosed World Health Organization grade 3 and 4 IDH1(R132H) + astrocytomas.

I am neither a scientist or clinician and any specialist knowledge of the brain tumour research arena has been kindly shared with me by many of you on this database. Thank you. I have supplemented such knowledge, as it is, with reading a bit around the subject with two books being key: ‘The Emperor of All Maladies’ (Siddhartha Mukherjee) and 'The Breakthrough' (Charles Graeber). To that list I can now add 'Cross Everything; A personal journey into the evolution of cancer(Henry Scowcroft).

When Henry's partner Zarah was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer in her mid-thirties, their world fell apart. In order to cope with the upheaval as they endured scans, aggressive chemotherapy and hospital stays, Henry began writing down and sharing their experiences with friends and family. Although this book is about bladder cancer and not brain tumours their rollercoaster journey through the healthcare system is not dissimilar to stories that are often recounted by those who have experienced similar in their brain tumour journey.

Henry’s day job is as a writer for Cancer Research UK and has helped him produce a book that is an extraordinary, intimate and intense dissection of cancer and why it is such a formidable foe.

It is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in how cancer works and what we are doing to stop it working with such lethal effectiveness – by definition that is probably everyone reading this research update.

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