Super Advocate: Stephen Western Helps Brain Cancer Patients Keep Up with the Latest Research


Stephen Western is a dedicated advocate for people dealing with brain cancer. He started this work in February 2013, when his friend was diagnosed with a type of brain tumor known as an astrocytoma. In order to help her, he began to learn all he could about the science of astrocytoma treatment.

Stephen soon realized that many more patients might benefit from his growing knowledge, so he created the website Astrocytoma Options to share this information and update it as new research emerges. He also helps run another site that focuses on the multi-drug “cocktails” often used in brain tumor treatment.

Although Stephen has no formal scientific training, he is able to help patients better understand their treatment options and stay up-to-date on the latest treatment research. To learn more about his work, I interviewed him via email: Continue reading…


FDA Takes Action against 14 Companies for Selling Illegal Cancer Treatments

Excerpt:

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today posted warning letters addressed to 14 U.S.-based companies illegally selling more than 65 products that fraudulently claim to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure cancer. The products are marketed and sold without FDA approval, most commonly on websites and social media platforms.

” ‘Consumers should not use these or similar unproven products because they may be unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate and potentially life-saving cancer diagnosis or treatment,’ said Douglas W. Stearn, director of the Office of Enforcement and Import Operations in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs. ‘We encourage people to remain vigilant whether online or in a store, and avoid purchasing products marketed to treat cancer without any proof they will work. Patients should consult a health care professional about proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.’ ”

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Results of Glioblastoma Clinical Trial Show Safety and Clinical Benefit of CAR T Cell Therapy

Excerpt:

“Glioblastoma is the most common brain tumor in humans and also one of the most difficult cancers to treat; patients with this type of cancer only survive about one year from time of diagnosis. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Cancer Center, and the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor, Texas Children’s Hospital and Houston Methodist are investigating a new treatment option using modified T cells with anti-tumor properties with the goal of improving outcomes for patients with glioblastoma.

Their research focuses on engineered T cells that target the protein HER 2 expressed in low levels in . Results of a Phase 1 study published in the current issue of JAMA Oncology established the safety of these HER 2-specific, chimeric antigen receptor modified T cells (CAR T cells) when infused in to patients in increasing doses and, importantly, results also showed a clinical benefit to patients.”

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Opdivo Fails to Demonstrate Survival Benefit in Phase 3 Brain Cancer Trial

Excerpt:

“Patients with glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain cancer, who recurred following radiation therapy and Temodal (temozolomide), did not survive longer when treated with the PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab) compared to standard-of-care treatment with Avastin (bevacizumab).

The findings mean that the randomized CheckMate -143 Phase 3 trial (NCT02017717) has failed to meet its primary objective.

” ‘[Glioblastoma multiforme] is a historically difficult disease to treat and conventional treatment options have demonstrated limited responses,’ Fouad Namouni, MD, head of Oncology Development and head of Medical at Bristol-Myers Squibb, said in a news release. ‘We remain steadfast in our pursuit of treatments for diseases with the highest unmet need and continue our work to determine how our immuno-oncology agents can potentially improve outcomes for these patients.’ ”

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Vaccine/Chemotherapy Combination Improves Survival in Glioblastoma

Excerpt:

“Cytomegalovirus (CMV)-targeted vaccination plus high-dose chemotherapy with temozolomide can lead to long-term progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma (GBM), according to a new study published in Clinical Care Research.

“Despite surgical resection, high-dose radiation, and chemotherapy with temozolomide, GBM patients typically survive a median of 15 months. CMV proteins are expressed in more than 90% of GBM. ‘Recent evidence has also demonstrated that CMV-specific T-cell immunity can be generated to recognize and effectively kill autologous GBM tumor cells expressing endogenous levels of the immunodominant pp65 antigen, providing compelling support for the development of CMV-directed immunotherapy for the treatment of GBM,’ stated the researchers, led by Kristen A. Batich, MD, PhD, a researcher in the departments of neurosurgery and pathology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.”

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Which Patients Will Be Helped By Immune Cancer Drugs? This Test May Tell

Excerpt:

“You’ve probably heard about powerful new cancer medicines like Keytruda and Opdivo. As advertised on TV, these drugs release brakes on the immune system to make tumors disappear and extend survival in deadly diseases like lung cancer and melanoma. But these agents, called checkpoint inhibitors, work in only a fraction of patients. Scientists are searching for diagnostic tests to predict who will be helped, and who won’t.

“A promising solution comes from Foundation Medicine, a molecular diagnostics company headquartered in Cambridge, Mass. Foundation offers a cancer genome profiling test that evaluates mutations in DNA. With results from its standard FoundationOne panel, Foundation calculates a Tumor Mutation Burden (TMB) score. This quantitative readout―based on the number and type of DNA changes per megabase, a length of DNA―may prove helpful to patients considering immune treatment for many advanced forms of cancer.”

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Further Reductions in Radiotherapy to Young Children With Brain Tumors Less Successful

Excerpt:

“A team of investigators has determined that young children participating in a clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of reduced radiotherapy did worse when there were deviations from the treatment protocol. Results of the study will be available online in advance of publication by Pediatric Blood & Cancer on April 4.

” ‘This study shows that attention to the timing, dose, and location of radiation therapy is crucial,’ Kenneth K. Wong, MD, a radiation oncologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and first author on the study.

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TTFields Significantly Improve Survival in GBM

Excerpt:

“A landmark analysis of findings from the EF-14 trial testing the efficacy and safety of tumor treating fields (TTFields) for the treatment of patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) has found that the risk of death was reduced by 37% and overall survival (OS) was extended by a median of 5 months with the use of the device.

“Two-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year overall and progression-free survival (PFS) rates for patients who received TTFields with adjuvant temozolomide were significantly improved over patients who received temozolomide alone, reported Roger Stupp, MD, professor of neurological surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and associate director for strategic initiatives at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.”

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Bristol-Myers Squibb Announces Results from CheckMate -143, a Phase 3 Study of Opdivo (nivolumab) in Patients with Glioblastoma Multiforme

Excerpt:

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE:BMY) today announced that CheckMate -143, a randomized Phase 3 clinical trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of Opdivo in patients with first recurrence of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), did not meet its primary endpoint of improved overall survival over bevacizumab monotherapy. These data will be presented on May 7, 2017 at the World Federation of Neuro-Oncology Societies (WFNOS) meeting in Zurich, Switzerland.

” ‘GBM is a historically difficult disease to treat and conventional treatment options have demonstrated limited responses,’ said Fouad Namouni, M.D., head of Oncology Development and head of Medical, Bristol-Myers Squibb. ‘We remain steadfast in our pursuit of treatments for diseases with the highest unmet need and continue our work to determine how our Immuno-Oncology agents can potentially improve outcomes for these patients.’ ”

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If you’re wondering whether this story applies to your own cancer case or a loved one’s, we invite you to use our ASK Cancer Commons service.