Monday, May 18, 2009

Brain Cancer Vaccine?

-C. Paula de los Angeles

Historically, patients who have brain tumors get them surgically removed. However, almost always, the tumor returns and the patient dies within two years. With these types of tumors, surgery and chemotherapy doesn't seem to be effective.

Dr. Theodore Schwartz, of the New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, has designed a vaccine that puts a tag on cancer cells, helping the immune system find the cancer and kill it and is currently testing it on patients. Due to the success of initial trials, studies are beginning on larger groups of patients.

Questions: What are the pros and cons of a vaccine to treat a brain tumor? Is this a more cost-effective alternative? How does our immunological understanding of vaccines help us understand other areas such as oncology and neurobiology? At what point would we give the vaccine?

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