Brain cancer vaccine trial begins


The trial is taking place at King's College Hospital, London

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A trial has begun of a vaccine to treat an aggressive form of brain cancer.

The first patient in Europe has received the treatment at King's College Hospital in London. Robert Demeger, 62, was diagnosed with the condition earlier this year.

The personalised vaccine is designed to teach his body's immune system to fight the tumour cells.

King's is one of more than 50 hospitals - the rest are in the US - which are testing the treatment.


Mr Demeger, a stage and TV actor, had to give up his role in the acclaimed National Theatre production of Othello when he began having seizures.

"I had an understudy and I said, if I get ill on stage just take over the line, but fortunately it never happened.

"Eventually I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had surgery within a matter of days."

Before his operation he was offered the chance to be the first patient in Europe to join the international trial.


Surgeons removed as much of his tumour as possible. It was incubated in a lab alongside dendritic cells - specialist immune cells taken from his blood.

The aim was to teach the cells to recognise the tumour. The resulting personalised vaccine was injected in his arm, with the hope that the cells will train others in the immune system to seek out and destroy the cancer.

He will receive 10 doses of the vaccine over the coming two years.

Keyoumars Ashkan, a neurosurgeon at King's, is leading the UK arm of the trial. He says there is a pressing need for new and better treatments for brain cancers.


"Even if a tumour seems the same between two patients, the reality is they are very varied.

"So the 'one-size fits all' therapy is probably not optimal. There is a need to be able to deliver individualised treatment based on a patient's own cancer type."

The trial involves patients with glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of primary brain tumour, which affects around 1,500 people in Britain every year.

Average survival time is just 12-18 months. Two previous small studies of the DCVax therapy, in the US, found that it extended that to three years, without toxic side-effects. Twenty patients were involved and two of these have so far lived for 10 years.

Mr Ashkan stressed that the current trial, which will involve 300 patients, is needed to show whether the treatment is truly effective. Half will receive the personalised vaccine and the rest dummy injections.

"Until we get the results of this research, we will not know whether the therapy should be offered to all patients" he said.

Mr Demeger says he is delighted to be part of the research. "Anything that may give me a better chance, but also others, is worth taking part in" he said.


The surgery to remove his cancer affected his speech, because the tumour was sitting close to the part of the brain dealing with language.

So Mr Demeger, whose voice has been his livelihood, has had to re-learn how to communicate.

"I'd love to get back to acting. It's my job.

"I've been working with a speech therapist and the head of voice at the National.

"Whether I'm back on stage in weeks or months I don't know but I'm hopeful. "

Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    This sounds like a very sensible treatment. Is anyone doing trials for other cancers? My partner (extremely fit) aged 56 has just been diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus with liver metastasis. The 'establishment' have given a very poor prognosis. He has had blot clots which are being treated but otherwise has no symptoms. He was cycling 70 miles a week until 3 weeks ago. Please help!

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    This is truly another momentous step towards winning the fight. One day we might even be able to apply this to all cancers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Being part of the trial will require regular trips to the hospital for treatment.
    For further information please contact:
    Laura Carpenter
    Communications Manager
    Extension: +44 (0)20 3299 3850:

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Trial recruitment is now open; Mr Ashkan, Consultant Neurosurgeon at King’s, will be specifically looking for:
    • Patients entitled to NHS treatment;
    • Aged 18 - 70 years;
    • Confirmed diagnosis of Glioblastoma mulltiforme for which surgery HASN’T already been carried out;
    • Treatment will be carried out at hospitals that are part of King’s Health Partners AHSC in London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Experts will put together patient’s immune cells & biomarkers from tumour tissue = personalised vaccine using DCVax® immune therapy. Following 6 wks of standard radiotherapy/chemotherapy, first personalised vaccine will be administered; there are up to10 injections, administered over 3 year period.
    For each day of quality-life gained, there is success. One US patient has survived 10 yrs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    80. That is not how this trial would be run, half the patients would simply have the currently used treatment for brain cancer, so resection and chemo/radiotherapy. The other half would be given this new treatment, this will allow the researchers to compare the new treatments usefulness. It would be crazy and unethical not to give patients a treatment when one is available.

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Why is it whenever the medicine profession makes a drug it always has side effects. Yet if you look up hemp oil you will realize that's the perfectly good cure with no side effects. When is the people going to wake up and stop trusting government and these special interest organisations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    300 people will be tested.

    It must be hard for them not knowing which 150 get the real injection & the other 150 a dummy one, as those with the dummy one will no doubtedly die sooner without medical treatment.

    People need to realise that much suffering has gone into achieving todays medications with many people dieing just to prove a point of validity.


  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    75 - read more carefully:

    "King's is one of more than 50 hospitals - the rest are in the US - which are testing the treatment."

    Therefore the treatment is being tested, not currently available anywhere. It is very misleading to come out with comments like yours.

    Please remember there are people affected by this reading who could do without misinformation and also the other patronising comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    This is fantastic news and has made my Christmas. We watched my mum die of this cancer in 2001 as it robbed her of her dignity as she moved into home was fed wearing a bib and wore a nappy. No such trial available back then. Shows the better side of human nature pulling together. A very very good news story and good luck to all those taking part in the trial. Their bravery will benefit many.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Great to see this treatment progressing, I first came across it several years ago when my own mother was hit by glioblastoma and sadly died after 16 months. The lack of decent treatment options which work is a particular issue with this cancer. For those wanting this treatment you could contact drug company direct and enquire about receiving it privately on compassionate grounds?

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    The article states Mr. Demeger is the first patient in Europe (not the world) to receive this treatment. Does this means the treatment is already available in the USA. If so, how long has it been available and what are the clinical results ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Wish him and the clinical trial lots of success with this amazing new treatment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Good luck to him, and to anyone else affected by this horrible disease.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Great news. My wife died in her early 30's from Glioblastoma. There was literally nothing we can do. That was 10 years ago. Sounds like a more intelligent approach has finally taken hold.

    Seeing this news is the best thing I have read in a very long time. Here's hoping this proves to have very positive resutls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Here are the trail details.
    Patients who receive the placebo will be offered the full treatment apon early results of the trail.
    The Company Northwest Biotherapeutics is conducting the phase 111 trail in American and Germany.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    No blog on the Royal Pardon BBC! OOOOOOPS!

    Shame on you! BBC!

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    wonder if he would have been offered the opportunity if he was from Glasgow or Newcastle? Post code or celebrity lottery again?


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