Recent brain scans of a 72-year-old man diagnosed with the aggressive glioblastoma cancer have unveiled a remarkable regression in tumor size within days of receiving a groundbreaking new treatment. While outcomes for two other participants were somewhat less favorable, the success of this case offers promising prospects in the quest for an effective cure for what is presently an incurable disease.

Glioblastomas, arising from supporting cells within the central nervous system, are among the deadliest cancers, claiming up to 95 percent of patient lives within five years due to their rapid and malignant growth.

Researchers from the Mass General Cancer Centre in the US turned to CAR T-cell therapy, a treatment harnessing the patient’s immune system, as a potential solution. Although primarily approved for treating blood cancers, CAR T-cell therapy’s ability to target cancerous cells could hold advantages in combating glioblastomas.

In CAR T-cell therapy, patient T-cells are collected and modified to recognize specific surface markers on cancer cells before being reintroduced via infusion. This approach is akin to deploying local bounty hunters to stealthily track down wanted villains in the alleys.

One prevalent marker across various glioblastomas is a mutated form of a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), making it a potential target for CAR T-cell therapy. However, glioblastomas present challenges due to their diverse disguises. To address this, researchers devised a method to encourage CAR T-cells to produce antibodies targeting non-mutant EGFRs found on cancer cells, providing an additional identifying feature.

Preclinical trials demonstrated the efficacy of T-cell-engaging antibody molecule (TEAM) therapy at tumor sites, recruiting regulatory T-cells to enhance the immune response.

The phase 1 clinical trial, named INCIPIENT, aimed to assess the safety and treatment potential of this approach with only three participants diagnosed with variant EGFR glioblastoma.

The first patient, a 74-year-old man, witnessed significant tumor reduction within a day of CARv3-TEAM-E T-Cell infusion. However, subsequent scans revealed cancer progression months later despite initial improvement.

Similarly, a 57-year-old woman experienced near-complete regression of her tumor five days post-therapy, yet the cancer resurged within a month.

In contrast, the 72-year-old third participant showed no signs of tumor recurrence, with minor side effects and brief lung nodules. Encouraged by these results, researchers emphasize the potential of their immunotherapeutic approach, targeting multiple surface antigens simultaneously with CAR T-cells.

While the long-term prognosis remains uncertain, labeling the treatment as a cure is premature. However, with further investigation and clinical trials, CAR T-cell therapy could offer hope to patients battling the deadliest cancers.

By Impact Lab