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Tetanus Shot Ups Survival With Brain Tumor Immunotherapy

One patient with glioblastoma still alive nine years later

FRIDAY, March 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Adding a simple tetanus shot to dendritic cell immunotherapy for glioblastoma dramatically extended some patients’ survival in a small new study. The study was published online March 11 in Nature.

Kristen Batich, a dual medical-doctoral degree student at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and colleagues split 12 glioblastoma patients into two groups: six received a tetanus booster and six received a placebo. The following day, all 12 patients underwent dendritic cell immunotherapy. In this case, the Duke team extracted patients’ white blood cells, coaxed the growth of dendritic cells, and loaded them with an antigen targeting the cytomegalovirus in glioblastoma tumors. The dendritic cell vaccine was then injected back into the cancer patients. The purpose was to signal lymph nodes to search and attack the cytomegalovirus-laden tumor.

Even in the non-tetanus shot group, survival times were somewhat longer than average for glioblastoma patients. Half of those patients lived about 18.5 months from diagnosis, the researchers said. Three of the six patients randomly selected to receive a tetanus shot plus dendritic cell therapy were alive at the time of researchers’ survival analysis. One lived 4.8 years, while another lived 5.9 years, and the remaining patient continues to have no tumor growth 8.8 years after treatment.

“Because the [average] survival is 12 to 15 months in patients who receive a diagnosis of this tumor, we were quite surprised by the results of three patients who had much longer survival times,” Batich told HealthDay.

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