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Immunotherapy before surgery for recurring glioblastoma

Research suggests that treating people who have recurrent glioblastoma with immunotherapy before surgery, as well as afterwards, could be more effective

The study, published in Nature Medicine, show that patients who were given pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor, before and after glioblastoma surgery had better survival than those who had pembrolizumab only after surgery.

35 patients with recurrent glioblastoma were enrolled in the study: 16 patients received two doses of pembrolizumab before surgery and continued to receive the drug after surgery; 19 patients received pembrolizumab only after surgery.

People who received the drug before surgery lived nearly twice as long after surgery relative to those who received the drug only after surgery.

Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of primary brain tumour that affects approximately 2,200 people in the United Kingdom each year. Despite undergoing rigorous treatment regimens, patients with glioblastoma have an extremely poor prognosis.

Immunotherapies, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, have shown promise to treat other cancers and are currently being investigated to treat glioblastomas.

Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. The immune cells are taught to recognise the tumour cells as ‘foreign material’ and kill them. Checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that ‘take the brakes off’ the immune system, allowing the tumour cells to be destroyed.

The results of this study are promising and could have a significant impact on the way glioblastomas are treated. We look forward to seeing more work on this encouraging treatment.