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Using immunotherapy to treat glioblastoma

Immunotherapy is a method of treatment which uses substances to encourage or to subdue your immune system to help your body fight cancer, infection, and other diseases.

Immunotherapy research has had some success in some tumours/cancers, by increasing survival by several months. Unfortunately, there has, so far, been less success in brain tumours.

When it comes to the brain, immune-based treatments face a number of obstacles before they can even reach the tumour. One of the most significant challenges is the blood-brain barrier which protects the brain from harmful substances.

Also some brain tumours are very good masters of disguise and can use a 'cloak' of molecules to make them look like normal cells to the immune system. This prevents immune cells from attacking them.

For this reason, research is continuing within clinical trials, including looking at combining immunotherapy with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, to improve results.

DCVax®-L clinical trials

DCVax®-L is a personalised cancer vaccine that is made from each patient's own dendritic cells. (Dendritic cells are a type of immune cell that help the body's immune system recognise and attack tumour cells.)

In May 2018, interim results from a clinical trial showed increased overall survival for patients with glioblastoma. Patients in the trial who received DC Vax®-L showed an average survival rate of 23.1 months compared to an average overall survival rate between 15-17 months compared to historic controls.

However, as of June 2018, it's not currently available on the NHS, and the trial, though ongoing, is not recruiting any more people. It may be possible to access it privately and you may have to go abroad for the initial treatment. You will need to have a sample of your tumour flash frozen. Speak to your healthcare team if you are interested.

If DCVax®-L is approved by NICE and then receives full regulatory approval, the NHS legally has to make the treatment available within three months.

The vaccine can currently be accessed privately and interested individuals are encouraged to speak to their clinicians with the provided information.

Get your free brain tumour information pack

Our Brain Tumour Information Pack has been designed to help you cope with your diagnosis and support you during this difficult time. It can help to guide you through the healthcare system, answer your questions, and reassure you that you're not alone so that you feel confident when discussing treatment and care options with your medical team.