Monday, December 17, 2012

On To Immunotherapy

Good morning friends! Here's a rundown of things....

1. Immediately after procuring my treatment appointment in Germany, I had the "fertility" talk with my NYC doctor. He said, "You haven't even started the treatment, and you have plenty of time. We can discuss this large issue when I see you next." So there it is. I didn't have time to do the egg harvesting anyway. For now I can take that issue out of my brain.

2. After a ping-pong of emails between two incredibly diligent and efficient doctors from opposite sides of the country, it was discovered that my tumor tissue is unusable for an individualized vaccine. The remaining tumor has been treated in formalin which has then been placed in wax blocks. However, before the surgery I wrote about an immunotherapy that uses your dendritic cells and a virus to prime your body's cancer defenses. I am now on track to begin treatment in Germany with the Newcastle virus. If interested, you can read more below (written by doctors from my clinic). Or, if you would like to read the entire paper, please click here. As for the cost, it is the same. I will still be doing the leukephresis and multiple shots, but this time it will be with my dendritic cells and the Newcastle virus.

2.1.3 Newcastle disease virus in treatment of GBM; a tool for improving DC therapy besides dendritic cell therapy cell therapy another promising approach for the treatment of malignant brain tumors is the treatment with replication-selective viruses, also called oncolystic viruses. This is based on the fact that most tumor cells are more or less unable of an effective virus defense. This approach is also known as virotherapy. The application of viruses for cancer treatment is based on reports since the beginning of the 20th century on temporary improvement of cancer following natural viral infections or vaccinations against viral diseases. (DePace 1912). Meanwhile several replication competent viruses (mainly herpes and adenoviruses) were tested in vitro, in animal models as well as in phase I/II clinical trials for treatment of malignant brain tumors (Shah et al., 2003; Rainoy & Ren 2003; Wollmann et al., 2005). However, the viruses have to be genetically modified in a way that makes sure that they selectively infect and replicate in tumor cells. Within the viruses tested for human anticancer treatment the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV), an enveloped poultry virus with a single strained RNA as genetic material, seems to be one of the most promising candidates. NDV is not a pathogen for humans, and is absolutely harmless causing  only mild flu-like symptoms or conjunctivitis in the worse of cases (Lorence et al., 2001; Reichard et al., 1992). NDV shows a natural distinct tropism for cancer cells. Cancer cells infected with NDV can be killed directly with the virus within a short time after injection, whereas normal infected cells are not lysed by NDV.. 

As described earlier, tumor cell lysate may be the better antigen source for priming of dendritic cells because it contains the whole antigen repertoire of the tumor. However, it has to be taken in mind that most of the antigens expressed in tumors are poor inducers of immune response and are often recognized by the immune system as poor self antigens (Vergati et al., 2010). Opposed to this adjuvant active specific immunization based on tumor cells modified with a low pathogenic strain of the NDV has been reported to achieve sustained immune responses in patients with advanced colonic cancer and kiver metastasis (Lehner et al., 1990; Schulze et al., 2009). NDV can have lytic activity on tumor cells directly as well as immune stimulating properties that affect both innate and adaptive immune responses. Infection of tumor cells with live NDV results in a potent up-regulation of cell adhesion molecules on the tumor cells surface (Lehner et al., 1990; Washburn et al., 2002). Expression of viral proteins on the tumor cel surface and presence of virus derived pathogen-associated molecular patterns (e.g. double -stranded RNA) result in breaking of host tolerance towards the tumor in vitro (Bai et al., 2002). The T cell stimulatory action of dendritic cells pulsed with lysates of NDV infected tumor cells as well as the antitumor cytotoxicity of macrophages and monocytes is increased (Schirrmacher et al., 2000; Washburn et al., 2003; Zeng et al., 2002). Finally,  NDV induces an increased production of various cytokines, e.g. Interferon-a as well as chemokines, influencing the migration, the activation status and cytotoxic activity of various immune cells (Lokuta et al., 19996; Schirrmacher 2005, Schlag et al., 1992). Clinical phase 1 and II  studies in various tumor entities have proven the safety of active specific immunization with NDV-modified tumor cells. A detailed description of the mechanisms of action of NDV modified tumor cell vaccines and results from other studies in cancer patients were reviewed by Schirrmacher (Schirrmacher, 2005).

In malignant brain tumors, case reports as well as clinical phase I/II studies have shown that treatment with intravenously applied NDV as well as with vaccines utilizing NDV modified tumor cells can induce a clinical anti-tumor response in malignant brain tumors with objective clinical responses as well as with a trend towards improvement of overall survival (Csatary & Bakacs, 1999, Csatary et al., 2004; Freeman et al., 2005; Scheider et al., 2001; Wagner et al., 2006). Recent results from our group have shown that a therapy with dendritic cells in combination with the NDV virotherapy may improve the clinical anti-tumor response in patients with GBM (NeBelhut et al., 2007, 2011). Patients were pre-treated with intravenously administration of NDV Dendritic cells were primed with NDV modified tumor cells or with NDV alone in patient with tumor recurrence. When tested in vitro, NVD primed MoDC of such treated patients induce the activation of autologous CD8+ T cells with release of IFN-y. This leads to the hypothesis that, if viral antigens are expressed on the tumor cell surface, a NDV specific dendritic cell therapy may lead to the induction of NDV specific CD8+T cells and thus to the induction of a specific immune response against the virus infected cancer cell (NeBelhut et al., 2011).

3. I now need to get blood work done within the next week and send it to Germany. It's a final check to make sure I'm healthy enough for treatment. I'm getting nervous and excited, there's a lot of medical stuff to do. Michelle, my sweet travel buddy has been researching the train system, hotels, etc. She's got her Germany travel guide and pocket German language book. As for the details of travel, MG has it all figured out, I don't have to think about a single thing :) She's the best!

When I found out that I don't have usable tumor tissue I freaked out. I completely panicked and I worried that I shouldn't spend the money on the Newcastle treatment (along with the hyperthermia). But then I started re-reading about the treatment and was reminded that it's most effective when the tumor burden is low. It's scary to spend the money, but I have to do whatever I can to aide my body's healing properties. I can't just pretend that the tumor won't grow. I have the responsibility to try every intelligent option, regardless of the cost or effort. I know in my soul that I've gotta do it or I'll become depressed. Deep down, if I don't go for it I'll know I'm not doing everything that I could, and that translates into me giving up. It's just not an option. I'm excited, and nervous, and thrilled at the opportunity. This tumor dictates our lives. It is a ticking bomb that must be dismantled.

Here's your laugh for the day. Dan sent me this photo from work on Saturday. I literally laughed out loud :)


  1. Ok I have to say it...does the photo really say 0% juice? I guess all the people I know that when "life gives them lemons they make lemon aide" has really caused a serious shortage of lemons.

    I don't drink this stuff as I still have a few lemons:)
    Prayers continue for you and family.

    Rich and Andre

  2. Merry Christmas Jess! Believe in miracles, this is the season of the greatest ever. God bless this beautiful, sweet life with health and happiness. May He cover you with love, and grace, and mercy always. So much love coming your way, soak in love's healing power!

  3. Merry Christmas Dan & Jessica


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