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Procedures – Cancer Biologics and Immunotherapy for Brain Tumors
Cancer Biologics and Immunotherapy for Brain Tumors
Our neuro-oncologists have advanced training in brain tumor care, and we actively participate in clinical trials researching new treatments for brain tumors. Some of the latest therapies under investigation are cancer biologics and immunotherapy.
These cutting-edge treatments can be very effective against many types of cancerous brain tumors. At Stanford, we treat the following types of brain tumors with cancer biologics and immunotherapy:
Primary tumors (cancer that starts growing in the brain) such as some types of glioma, tumors that develop in the supportive tissue that surrounds nerve cells
Metastatic tumors from cancers that have spread from another part of the body, such as breast and non-small cell lung cancer and melanoma
Recurrent tumors (cancer that has come back after initial treatment)
The types of biologics and immunotherapy that treat brain tumors include:
Treatments that use antibodies are manmade versions of immune system proteins. Avastin (bevacizumab) is a monoclonal antibody drug that targets a growth signal that cancer cells send out to attract new blood vessels. Avastin blocks a tumor's signals to prevent them from connecting with their targets, which helps slow or stop the tumor’s blood supply.
This type of vaccine is designed to stimulate the immune system to attack existing cancer cells, not prevent cancer from developing. Cancer vaccines use cancer cells, parts of cells or antigens (foreign substances that stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies).
No cancer vaccines for brain tumor treatment are yet approved. Most vaccines in clinical trials are designed to treat malignant (cancerous) types of glioma.
These drugs essentially unleash the immune system to fight cancer. Certain molecules on immune cells act as “checkpoints” to prevent attacks on healthy cells. Some types of cancer cells can use these molecules to avoid being detected by the immune system. Checkpoint inhibitors block these molecules so that the immune system can find and destroy the cancer cells.
Targeted Therapy for Metastatic Brain Tumors
Many cancer biologics and immunotherapy drugs that that were originally developed for other cancers can be used to treat cancers that have metastasized (spread) to the brain. Examples include:
Herceptin® for metastasized breast cancer
Tarceval® for metastasized non-small cell lung cancer
Keytruda®, Opdivo® and Yervoy® for metastasized melanoma (in clinical trials)