Every year, 10,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the most aggressive and most common form of brain cancer. Even after surgery, radiation and chemo, the tumor returns in 95 percent of cases. Now researchers are testing out a new vaccine that aims to stop the cancer from coming back.
Peter Rauch was about to turn 70 when he got the news: brain cancer.
"I thought maybe I was getting dementia or something like that. I just didn't feel quite right," said Peter Rauch, brain cancer patient.
He had a craniotomy, where surgeons remove part of the skull and cut out the cancer. The operation went well, but the tumors are likely to come back.
"They infiltrate into the brain, and we can take out the majority of them, but there are microscopic cells that go into the brain that are very, very hard to treat," said Dr. Ted Schwartz, neurosurgeon, NY Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Peter is testing a new vaccine that trains his immune system to target and kill cancer cells.
"With new treatments like tumor vaccines, we can actually 'rev-up' the body's own immune system to target and treat those tumors," said Schwartz.
In phase two trials, patients who got the vaccine were cancer free for about 16-and-a-half months and survived nearly three years. Those who didn't get the shot survived a little over a year.
"We've been doing this for many years. It helps to stave off disease, but is not a cure. Now, we have a treatment that potentially can increase the number of long-term survivors," said Schwartz.
"I don't think I'm back to where I was before the surgery, but I'm getting closer," said Peter.
So far, Peter's feeling good and grateful for every day his cancer stays away.
Patients in the multi-site Pfizer trial receive monthly injections for as long as the tumor has not returned. The study is not currently recruiting patients, but if you would like to be contacted, CLICK HERE to request more information. CLICK HERE to identify a clinical trial near you.