Mainstream western medicine is trialling some novel approaches to treating brain tumours. Below is a brief summary of some of these.
Biological therapies look to to treat cancer using drugs made from the body’s natural substances. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) block cancer cells from receiving ‘divide and grow’ signals. PARP is an enzyme that enables damaged cells to repair themselves. Anti-angiogenic drugs aim to stop cancers from developing their own blood vessels, which they need for progression.
An active area of brain tumour research is immunotherapy. The central premise of this is to stimulate the immune system so that it recognises and then rejects a glioma. The body seems to tolerate tumours because they are essentially the patient’s own cells. However, the hope is that immunotherapy treatments can teach the body to target them because many kinds of tumour cells have unusual properties.
Vaccine therapy also aims to help the immune system kill cancer cells. DCVax-L for glioblastoma multiforme is one such trial. A dendritic cell vaccine is made by using healthy dendritic cells mixed with proteins taken from a patient’s brain tumour. The hope is that the vaccine will help an immune system to recognise and, ultimately, kill the patient’s cancer cells.
Researchers are studying how they might substitute healthy genes for the damaged genes in cancer cells.