Like the hardiest weed, glioblastoma almost always springs back — usually within months after a patient’s initial brain tumor is surgically removed. That is why survival rates for this cancer are just 25 percent at one year and plummet to 5 percent by the five-year mark.
One of the challenges of treating this disease is that surgeons can’t always remove every bit of tumor or glioma stem cells that might linger in the brain.
“One characteristic of glioblastoma is that the tumor cells are very aggressive, and they will infiltrate the surrounding tissues. So the surgeon can’t clearly feel the boundaries between the tumor and the normal tissue, and you cannot remove as much as possible because all the tissues in the brain are extremely important — you certainly don’t want to remove too much,” explains Quanyin Hu, an assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy’s Pharmaceutical Sciences Division. “So the tumor will come back again, and that sharply decreases the survival rate after treatment.”
But Hu’s Cell-Inspired Personalized Therapeutic (CIPT) Lab has developed a powerful immunity-boosting postoperative treatment that could transform the odds for patients with glioblastoma. Hu and his collaborators published their research on the treatment’s use in mouse models of human glioblastoma this month in the journal Science Translational Medicine.