Researchers are testing a new form of immunotherapy and a new way to give it to glioblastoma patients.

Glioblastoma is the most common and deadliest form of brain cancer. Even after surgery and aggressive chemotherapy, most patients only live 14 months after diagnosis. A clinical trial is delivering a bioengineered fusion protein directly into the tumor.  

 Rusty Doms’s first scans were good after a cutting-edge procedure for glioblastoma. He hopes to get back on the paddleboard one day. 

 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. 

Dr. Achal Singh Achrol, Chief of the Glioma Surgery Program says, “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.” 

 Rusty and five others had the drug delivered directly to their tumors through up to four catheters. 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,” says Santosh Kesari, MD, Chair, Dept of Translational Neurosciences

Early results are promising. At one month, Rusty had swelling, but at two, his MRI showed tumor shrinkage. 

Rusty says, “If this trial is successful, I will have helped myself, but I will have helped other people, because right now, as best I know, there’s no cure for glioblastoma.”  

The procedure is minimally invasive, and rusty was out of the hospital in two days. He says his worst side effects are fatigue and s some difficulty with memory and concentration. This trial is open  in nine cancer centers in the U.S. The closest site to us is Cleveland Clinic.