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Antigen targeted in therapy for melanoma also prompts immune response in brain tumor cells

LOS ANGELES (Sept. 24, 2003) A protein fragment that was previously found in melanomas has now been detected in highly aggressive brain tumors called gliomas that take the lives of about 15,000 Americans each year.

This peptide, which the immune system recognizes as an antigen, or foreign invader, appears to be a target for anti-tumor immune therapy, according to studies conducted by researchers at Cedars-Sinai's Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute and the National Cancer Institute. It also may be useful as a marker that will enable scientists to monitor immune responses in human clinical trials against cancer cells called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), often referred to as gliomas.

Institute scientists and neurosurgeons have for several years conducted clinical trials using immunotherapy techniques to battle gliomas, removing brain tumor cells and culturing them with immune system cells called dendritic cells in the lab. When the resulting "vaccine" is injected into the patient's bloodstream, the dendritic cells recognize the tumor cells as invaders and "present" them to the antigen-fighting T-lymphocytes, triggering an immune response.

"The outlook for patients who suffer from these highly aggressive tumors has historically been extremely poor, and even conventional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy have provided almost no benefit," said Keith L. Black, M.D., neurosurgeon and founder and director of the Institute. "Based on the results of our early studies, the immune system appears to have the potential to destroy glioma cells and contribute to longer periods of patient survival. Unfortunately, the immune system is not very effective on its own. Therefore, we are always looking for new ways to target and boost the immune response."

In mouse and human studies of melanoma, tyrosinase-related protein-2 (TRP-2) has proved to be an excellent target for immunotherapies. This study found that the TRP-2 anti
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Contact: Sandra Van
sandy@vancommunications.com
1-800-880-2397
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
24-Sep-2003


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