Jan. 25, 1999 Los Angeles (January 21, 1999) -- Dendritic cell immunotherapy, a process that uses a vaccine derived from a patient's own cells to fight malignant cells, is being used to treat brain tumors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The clinical protocol is based on research done in the laboratory at Cedars-Sinai, and was used for the first time in patient treatment on May 11, 1998, at the Cedars-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute.
According to Keith Black, M.D., principal investigator on the project and one of eight physicians and scientists who have been researching dendritic cell immunotherapy, foreign proteins are taken from a tumor after surgical removal. These proteins are introduced to antigen presenting (or dendritic) cells taken from the patient's blood and grown in a Petri dish. The new dendritic cells, when re-injected into the patient, are intended to work like a vaccine, recognizing and destroying the lingering malignant tumor cells. Several such injections are typically scheduled over a six-week period.
Barbara Boyajian was among the first patients to undergo the experimental procedure, having been diagnosed in early June 1998 with glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most aggressive types of brain tumor. She first noticed a problem when her memory lost its sharpness. Shortly thereafter, she says, she walked into a wall. Thinking she needed glasses, she visited an eye doctor and he suggested she schedule an MRI. The malignant tumor was diagnosed and confirmed by three medical opinions. "I ended up in Dr. Black's hands, which was a blessing," says Boyajian.
Dr. Black and his team removed the tumor on July 23, 1998, and a six-week course of radiation therapy followed. Dendritic cell immunotherapy, initiated on Nov. 16, was completed on Dec. 30. Boyajian's positive outlook helped her get through a difficult time. She feels fine now and returns to the Neurosurgical Institute only for follow-up lab work and MRIs. "We're on this side of the tracks," she says, "and we're real excited about it and I have a lot of support from my family and my friends. And I have a tremendous amount of faith."
Dendritic cell immunotherapy has been approved by the Food & Drug Administration for Phase I study and has been used in treating other types of tumors. Other Cedars-Sinai Medical Center physicians and scientists involved in the research include: John Yu, M.D.; Christopher Wheeler, Ph.D.; Reid Thompson, M.D.; Brian Pikul, M.D.; Paul Zeltzer, M.D.; Divina Nacis, R.N.; and Mary Riedinger, R.N.
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