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Health Team

Experimental vaccine helps bodies fight brain cancer

Posted March 29, 2011 5:31 p.m. EDT
Updated April 4, 2011 3:54 p.m. EDT

 Ashley Bowman, a Forsyth county resident is looking for a new kidney after numerous life setbacks. Bowman is on the transplant list and in full-time dialysis. Despite what she's facing, she was determined to fulfill her dream.

An experimental new vaccine might offer hope for patients with a particularly deadly form of brain cancer, suggests new research from the Jonsson Cancer Center at the University of California Los Angeles.

A glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM, diagnosis means grueling, painful treatments that often don't even stop the disease's progression, doctors say. Most GBM patients only live for about a year after being diagnosed.

But Dr. Linda Liau at the Jonsson Cancer Center is using patients' own cancer proteins to teach the body to fight the disease. It's an experimental technique, but her research suggests it's working.

"About 90 percent survived over one year, 75 percent survived two years and 50 percent survived over three years," Liau said.

The vaccine is still in the trial stages and won't be available for use outside the study for several years, but it's already saving lives.

Brad Silver and his wife were expecting their second child when he received the devastating news that he had GBM. After participating in Liau's study, Silver not only lived to hold his newborn son, but he's been there to watch him grow.

Silver said cancer is a part of his life, but he doesn't let it take over. In fact, he uses his disease as motivation "to improve as a person, as a parent, as a husband in any way I can," he said.

It's been eight years since his diagnosis and he said he'll continue to fight, until his cancer is in remission.