A Simple Tetanus Vaccine Could Help Treat The Most Common And Deadly Brain Tumor

NEW YORK (AP) — Can a tetanus shot help treat brain cancer? A small study hints that it might.

A dose of tetanus vaccine let patients live longer when added to an experimental treatment for the most common and deadly kind of brain tumor, researchers report.

It “put the immune system on high alert,” paving the way for the experimental treatment to work better in attacking the disease, said researcher Kristen Batich of the Duke University Medical Center.

In a paper released Wednesday by the journal Nature, she and others describe a study of 12 patients. Some who got the tetanus shot lived years longer than those who didn’t.

Dr. John Sampson of Duke, senior author of the report, called the results promising but noted the study was small, and said bigger studies are needed to confirm the results. A follow-up study has already been planned but isn’t recruiting patients yet, Batich said.

Brain cancer experts unconnected with the work were impressed.

The results are “very exciting,” said Dr. Nader Sanai of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. While he agreed more work is required, “what you have so far, it’s a very positive story.”

Tetanus is otherwise known as lockjaw. Vaccines for it are routinely recommended for children and adults.

The new study focused on glioblastoma, which killed Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 2009. Even after surgery to remove the tumor, it usually grows back and kills. The few drugs to treat these tumors have little effect. Half of patients die within about 15 months.

The new work is an example of a long-standing effort to harness the immune system to fight cancer, an approach called immunotherapy.

The specific strategy it used is called a dendritic-cell vaccine. Doctors remove particular blood cells from a patient and equip them with a chemical target found in the tumor. Then they —> Read More