Tetanus shot improves patient survival with brain tumor immunotherapy

An innovative approach using a tetanus booster to prime the immune system enhances the effect of a vaccine therapy for lethal brain tumors, dramatically improving patient survival, according to a study led by Duke Cancer Institute researchers.

In a small human study, they enrolled 12 brain tumor patients, with half randomly assigned to receive a tetanus booster and the other half a placebo injection. The next day, patients in both groups were then given the dendritic cell immunotherapy. Researchers did not know which therapies the patients received.

Patients randomized to get a tetanus shot showed a significant increase in survival from the time of pre-conditioning compared to patients receiving just the dendritic cell therapy, with half living from 51 to 101 months, compared to 11.6 months for the comparison group. One patient from the tetanus group continues to have no tumor growth and is still alive at eight years after the treatment.

Link to the research: Duane A. Mitchell, et al., Tetanus toxoid and CCL3 improve dendritic cell vaccines in mice and glioblastoma patients. Nature, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nature14320

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