This finding builds on several studies recently published by the research team. In 2003, they reported that a protein fragment previously found in melanomas also was detected in highly aggressive brain tumors called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). The immune system recognizes the peptide, Tyrosinase-Related Protein (TRP)-2, as a foreign invader, making it a significant target for immunotherapy.
"Our findings suggest that TRP-2 could be a powerful molecule linking chemotherapy and immunotherapy," said Keith L. Black, M.D, one of the paper's authors, director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute and director of the medical center's Division of Neurosurgery and Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program.
"Based on our results, it appears that we can improve chemotherapy sensitivity by targeting TRP-2 and possibly other drug-resistant related tumor antigens. This may be a significant step in the fight against brain tumors and other malignant cancers because even as we have been able to develop very powerful and targeted chemicals, tumors have often been able to outmaneuver them," said Black.
In 2004, the researchers documented that the combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy significantly slowed tumor progression and extended survival of patients suffering from these deadly tumors. The two therapies together were able to accomplish results that neither could achieve by itself. The average length of survival was extended to about 26 months, compared to 18 months for patients who received vaccine alone and 16 months for those undergoing chemotherapy alone.