YOUR HEALTH: Protein treatment brings hope to brain tumor patients

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SANTA MONICA, California – Rusty Doms's first scans were good after a cutting-edge procedure for glioblastoma.

"I'm not on top of the world, but yes, I feel good. And one step in front of the other, and a positive attitude."

He's part of a trial at John Wayne Cancer Institute.   Doctors use a bioengineered protein that leaves healthy cells alone; it's called MDNA-55.

"It can bind directly to tumor cells and bring in a payload, which is like a Trojan horse that acts directly on tumor cells and causes the tumor cells to undergo programmed cell death," explained Dr. Achal Singh Achrol, Gioma Surgery Center director at he hospital.

Rusty and five others had the drug delivered directly to their tumors through up to four catheters.   At first, guided by MRI's.  It took up to 20 hours.

"Not only are we getting the bulk of the tumor that we see, but the drug is actually fusing to the rest of the brain where we see the single cells that are intertwined, infiltrating into the brain," said Dr. Santosh Kesari, Transitional Neurosciences director at the hospital.

Early results are promising.

At one month, Rusty had swelling.   But at two, his MRI showed tumor shrinkage.

"If this trial is successful, I will have helped myself," said Rusty.  "But I will have helped other people, because right now, as best I know, there`s no cure for glioblastoma."

There are an estimated 240,000 cases of brain and central nervous system cancers per year, of which glioblastoma is the most common and the most dangerous.   Approximately 18,000 patients are diagnosed with GB each year in the U.S. alone.

Despite an aggressive treatment approach that includes surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, 13,000 will die of the disease.

He knows it`s early, but Rusty is optimistic.

The procedure is minimally invasive and Rusty was out of the hospital in two days.

He says his worst side effects are fatigue and some cognitive delay.

This trial is open and running in nine cancer centers in the U-S.

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  Researchers are testing a new kind of immunotherapy and a new way to give it to patients with glioblastoma. A clinical trial at the John Wayne Cancer Institute is delivering a bioengineered fusion protein directly in the brain. MDNA 55 is a targeted form of immunotherapy designed to destroy tumor cells and immunosuppressive cells in the tumor microenvironment. It can bind directly to tumor cells and bring in a payload that causes the tumor cells to die. The treatment aims to avoid the dangers associated with traditional chemotherapies and radiation by using a bioengineered protein delivered with a new and precise minimally invasive neurosurgery technique under MRI guidance.  (Source:

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

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