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National brain tumour research funding needs to increase to £35 million a year

New immunotherapy trial announced

Details of a new immunotherapy trial for patients with brain tumours have just been announced. The phase two study of the drug ipilimumab, which will be led by Dr Paul Mulholland from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, will recruit 120 patients with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) at six locations around the country. The drug has been provided for free by the manufacturer and would normally have cost £25,000 per patient.

Immunotherapy involves the stimulation of the body’s immune system to recognise tumour cells as “foreign” and therefore kill them. A study last year using a similar immunotherapy drug nivolumab was unsuccessful. However, the initial results presented last year by Dr Mulholland on a trial of ipilimumab in a small number of patients showed some promise and this is why the current trial has been organised. The drug is currently in use for the treatment of some forms of melanoma.

Our Director of Research, Dr Kieran Breen, commented: “This is a very exciting opportunity. The potential to utilise the body’s own immune system to kill tumour cells could be transformational in the development of new therapeutic strategies. However, we need to remain cautious following the failure of the previous immunotherapy trial. Also, it is unlikely that all patients would respond positively, and one of the aims of this phase two trial is to identify those patients for whom the drug holds greatest promise.”

Full details of the trial have not yet been released but we will post these as soon as they become available. In the meanwhile, patients should talk to their oncologist if they want to obtain further details.

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