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Immunotherapies to Treat Glioblastoma

In This Video

  • Massachusetts General Hospital is part of a four-center trial studying the use of poliovirus to treat malignant brain tumors
  • Poliovirus, when directly injected into the tumor, stimulates a powerful inflammatory response, which helps provide anti-tumor immunity
  • CAR T-cells, which are harvested from the patient's own white blood cells, are modified outside of the body to target and kill brain tumor cells

William T. Curry, MD, co-director of Mass General Neuroscience and director of Neurosurgical Oncology in the Department of Neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Mass General Cancer Center, discusses a four-center trial studying the use of poliovirus to treat malignant brain tumors. In this video, Dr. Curry further explores additional immunotherapies, such as CAR T-cells, to target brain tumors.


We had the great opportunity to be part of a four-center trial studying the use of poliovirus as a means of treating malignant brain tumors, and in fact, we would inject the poliovirus directly into the tumor. What the virus does is it adds what is called tropism to the tumor, where it homes to the brain tumor and then it replicates, and as it replicates, it kills the tumor cells, and then spreads viral progeny to adjacent tumor cells. There is a direct killing effect, but it also stimulates a powerful inflammatory response, which then goes on to stimulate anti-tumor immunity—so this is really a form of immunotherapy. I was very happy to be able to lead this trial here at Harvard and at MGH. We have enrolled fully, and while the results are not back, I think that it's very promising. In fact, we are right now in the planning stages for combining poliovirus treatment of brain tumors with immune checkpoint inhibition and we should get that underway fairly shortly.

Over the past few years, we have been working on innovative therapies, immunotherapies for malignant brain tumors with particular focus on using CAR T-cells. CAR T-cells take advantage of our abilities with recombinant DNA technology, where we harvest the white blood cells from a patient's bloodstream, and then modify them outside of the body so that they home to and target and kill cells in the brain tumor that we select. One of the challenges historically with this kind of approach is that you can get rid of tumor cells that express a particular antigen target, but then other cells continue to grow. We have devised a mechanism by which once a tumor cell is targeted by the CAR T-cell, antibodies against other targets in the brain tumor are elaborated and so we can safely more generalize our approach. This is work that has been done in collaboration with Marcella Moss in the Cancer Center here, and we are starting a phase I clinical trial, something about which we are very excited. I think that we as a group are optimistic about the near and the long-term future for these patients and we won't rest until we make really serious advances in treating this disease.

Learn more about the Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology

Refer a patient to the Department of Neurosurgery


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