Health

Health Beat: Personalized brain vaccine for glioblastoma

Health Beat: Personalized brain vaccine for glioblastoma

CHICAGO - John and Kendall Suprock's 30th anniversary in Italy was full of romance.

"I secretly gave her a present every day," John said.

"So every day we were in Rome, he gave me a present.," Kendall said.

"But I didn't tell her this was coming, so it was fun," John said.

Just one day after returning home, John lost his ability to read.

"That's when they told us that you had a brain tumor," Kendall said.

The tumor pressed up against the language center of his brain. Known as a glioblastoma, the deadly cancer has no cure.

"It really was kind of soul-crushing when you realize how severe a diagnosis of GBM is," Kendall said.

Doctors removed the golf ball-sized tumor, but it came back three years later.

Now, a new experimental treatment using a patient's own tumor is offering hope.

"It's like getting a flu shot. Patients can fight their own disease if their immune system is educated in the right way and one of the ways to do that is with a vaccine," said Dr. Andrew Parsa, Northwestern Medicine.

Parsa said the personalized vaccine works by teaching the immune system to target and destroy cancer cells.

John and his family are very optimistic.

"I think the vaccine has increased your confidence," Kendall said.

"Yeah, it has because I think it's going to work," John said.

Parsa said he hopes the vaccine will help change glioblastoma from a terminal cancer to a chronic condition like diabetes that can be managed with medication.

Right now, a newly diagnosed patient who receives the vaccine, along with chemo and radiation, will live an average of 24 months versus a median survival of 15 months with standard care alone.

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