Finally – some hope for people living with a glioblastoma (GBM). This news from Northwest Biotherapeutics on the DCVax clinical trials has been a long time coming; we’re delighted to be sharing this news with the community.
What’s the bottom line?
Both endpoints were met with statistical significance. This means that DCVax®-L made a difference to the overall survival for some patients with newly diagnosed GBM (nGBM) and recurrent GBM (RGBM).
As stated in the recent press release on the DCVax trials:
Median survival for people with nGBM who are treated with the current standard of care is about 15-17 months from surgery . These phase 3 trial results show a median overall survival of 33 months from surgery for nGBM patients with methylated MGMT, and about 18 months from surgery for patients with unmethylated MGMT. Median survival is the time—expressed in months or years – at which half the patients are expected to be alive. It means that the chance of surviving beyond that time is 50 percent.
Median overall survival for patients with rGBM was 13.2 months from recurrence with DCVax®-L compared to 7.8 months in the control patients who received existing treatments.
Why do we think this is exciting news?
A GBM is hard to treat for a variety of reasons:
- The brain is a privileged and delicate site, so you can’t just go in and remove the tumour surgically.
- The brain has a protective barrier around it (the blood brain barrier) which stops therapies reaching the tumour
- The brain tumour is heterogeneous – that means it is made of a different cancer cells so it is hard to target
- Tumours change over time – a tumour at recurrence is a different tumour from a newly diagnosed tumour.
All of this means that we will need multiple therapies in different combinations to treat GBM. It also explains why we have had years of failures with clinical trials for GBM; from 2005 to 2016 we have had 417 GBM trials, involving just under 32,000 patients. Only 16 trials have reached phase 3 with only 1 positive trial – tumour treating fields . So to finally have a trial with a positive endpoint is very exciting news.
The challenges that we anticipate with this news
There is a caveat. Nobody should create false hope for the GBM community, which is vulnerable and desperate for a solution.
This is not yet available on the NHS, it isn’t appropriate for all patients, and it isn’t a cure. Whilst Northwest Biotherapeutics is working hard to achieve market access in as short a time as possible we do need to be realistic about what is achievable. We are privileged to be in dialogue with Northwest Biotherapeutics and we will of course keep you updated with any developments. Know that our support continues, no matter where you are on this pathway.
Helen Bulbeck, our Director of Services, on what is needed now:
What is needed is a fast track system whereby people can access these therapies quickly. It used to exist with the Cancer Drugs Fund but since 2016 this fund is now part of the NICE process that decides which cancer drugs are available on the NHS. So the bureaucracy involved in getting innovative and adaptive treatments to the community is still a layered barrier. Parity of access to transformative treatments is very much on our agenda for the year ahead.
Need help now?
If you have any questions call us on 01983 292405 or email us on email@example.com
 Fernandes C, Costa A, Osório L, et al. Current Standards of Care in Glioblastoma Therapy. In: De Vleeschouwer S, editor. Glioblastoma [Internet]. Brisbane (AU): Codon Publications; 2017 Sep 27. Chapter 11. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK469987/ doi: 10.15586/codon.glioblastoma.2017.ch11
 Vanderbeek AM, Rahman R, Fell G, Ventz S, Chen T, Redd R, Parmigiani G, Cloughesy TF, Wen PY, Trippa L, Alexander BM. The clinical trials landscape for glioblastoma: is it adequate to develop new treatments? Neuro Oncol. 2018 Jul 5;20(8):1034-1043. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/noy027. PMID: 29518210; PMCID: PMC6280141.