Virus Tumor Link Prompts Promising Brain Cancer

March 23, 2015

The median survival rate in glioblastoma patients was extended to more than four years after Phase I of a recent trial completed by Duke University. According to the paper published last week in the journal Nature, some cases doubled the average survival time expected in patients receiving standard treatments.

The study was the result of a discovery published in 2002 by Swedish’s brain cancer specialist, Dr. Charles Cobbs, that found cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection present in 90 percent of glioblastoma cells. CMV is a common herpes virus that can lay dormant for long periods of time and for which there is no cure.

In the Duke study, dendtritic cells (DCs) were pulsed with CMV phosphoprotein 65 (pp65) RNA then injected into the patients as immunotherapy.

“These are among (if not the) best prospective randomized results ever seen for GBM, although a larger Phase II study will be required to determine efficacy,” said Dr. Cobbs, now Director of Swedish Neuroscience Institute’s Ben & Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment.

Dr. Cobbs has been a pioneer in research linking brain tumors with CMV since 2000, when he first proposed the idea while working as a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Since then, Dr. Cobbs has been leading the world’s efforts to understand how CMV may be a cause of and target for glioblastoma.