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IBTA e-News

The monthly bulletin for our
international brain tumour community

November 2016

Leading news

Research roundup: Scientific Meeting of the Society for NeuroOncology (SNO 2016)

The 21st Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society for NeuroOncology (SNO 2016) took place in Scottsdale, Arizona on 18-20 November, 2016. There were over 2,350 attendees (200 more than in 2015) and 1,024 abstracts submitted (a record number, and 100 more than last year). Below is a selection of research news items. You can read our brief report of highlights and selected abstracts from the event on our website here. The Musella Foundation has also compiled highlights of the conference here

Novocure releases full phase III trial data of Tumor Treating Fields in newly-diagnosed glioblastoma, confirming improved survival rates 

A long-term analysis of the EF-14 phase 3 trial of Optune (formerly NovoTTF-100a) in newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients has shown increased survival with the device at two and four years, confirming interim results published in December 2015. In the randomised trial of 695 newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients, those treated with Optune (a portable TTFields device) together with temozolomide had an average (median) overall survival from randomisation of 20.8 months, compared to 16.0 months in patients who received temozolomide only. Read more (company press release). Novocure also announced that 38 presentations at SNO 2016 focused on Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) technology, and at the conference Dr Daniel O’Connell and colleagues announced a forthcoming phase III trial of TTFields in grade III progressive or recurrent anaplastic glioma tumours.

Checkpoint inhibitor trial data shows ‘durable’ benefit in subset of recurrent glioblastoma patients

Results from the first two phase II trials of ‘checkpoint inhibitors’ in glioblastoma patients have been reported at the 2016 Society for Neuro-Oncology Annual Meeting (SNO 2016), showing that they “appear to have a benefit and a role” in recurrent glioblastoma, said research author Dr David Reardon in an interview. Durvalumab, an antibody that sensitises the immune system to glioblastoma tumours by targeting the PD-L1 molecule expressed by tumour cells, showed an overall one-year survival rate of 44% in bevacizumab naive patients with recurrent glioblastoma. Pembrolizumab (Keytruda), showed a one-year overall survival rate of 74% in recurrent PD-L1-positive glioblastoma in the KEYNOTE-028 trial. Both trials showed a subset of patients who appeared to benefit greatly, with some recurrent glioblastoma patients free of progression at over 80 weeks after pembrolizumab therapy. Read more. (Watch a video interview with Dr Reardon here.)

ABT-414 recurrent glioblastoma trial data reported at SNO 2016

Data from a phase I trial of ABT-414, an antibody-based drug that targets the epidermal growth factor receptor on glioblastoma cells, have been presented at SNO 2016, showing that at least 25% of patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) amplified tumours were free of tumour progression after six months. Read more (an interview with lead author Martin van den Bent).

Trial of Toca 511 & Toca FC gene therapy shows better-than-expected survival in high grade glioma

Presented at SNO 2016, data from a 17-person phase I trial of Toca 511 & Toca FC gene therapy has shown an average (median) overall survival of 13.6 months in patients with high grade glioma. Tumours treated included glioblastoma, anaplastic astrocytoma, and anaplastic oligoastrocytoma – the historical survival rates being 7.2 to 9.2 months. The therapy involves a modified virus (Toca 511) genetically altering tumour cells, which are then specifically attacked by an oral drug (Toca FC). The therapy is also currently being trialled in other cancers, including brain metastases. Read more.

Anti-inflammatory drug could boost temozolomide effectiveness in glioblastoma, lab-based experiments suggest

Experiments on glioblastoma tumour cells suggest that an anti-inflammatory drug ibudilast may improve the effectiveness of the chemotherapy agent temozolomide in some glioblastoma patients. When researchers combined temozolomide with ibudilast, a drug that is known to cross the blood-brain-barrier and has been widely used in Japan to treat asthma, glioblastoma tumour cells showed increased rates of cell death. The findings were presented at SNO 2016 and mice experiments are planned to be completed by the end of 2016. Read more.

Researchers find that combined nivolumab (Opdivo) and radiotherapy is “well tolerated” in newly diagnosed glioblastoma

Results from an ongoing phase I trial (CheckMate-143) of the ‘checkpoint inhibitor’ nivolumab (Opdivo) “raises no new safety concerns” in newly diagnosed glioblastoma, when given alongside radiotherapy (with or without temozolomide), according to a presentation at SNO 2016. At the time of the presentation, data from 20 patients was evaluable, who were receiving nivolumab and radiotherapy (with or without temozolomide), 80% were alive at 12-months. Nivolumab has previously been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for advanced lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma, head and neck cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and melanoma. Read more.

Are neuro-oncologists at high risk of ‘burnout’?

A survey-based study, commenced at SNO 2016, is seeking to find out whether the unique challenges of caring for patients with brain and spinal cord tumours put neuro-oncologists at a particularly high risk of psychological ‘burnout’ and career dissatisfaction.  "Caring for patients with brain tumors can be meaningful and fulfilling—but it can also be "uniquely challenging," Dr. O'Brien, one of the study's investigators, said. Professional burnout is a “psychological syndrome” involving emotional exhaustion, cynicism or depersonalisation, and loss of a sense of meaning and effectiveness with one’s work. At the time of SNO 2016, 324 respondents had completed the survey and interim results showed that 30% were experiencing burnout symptoms and 76% of neuro-oncology clinicians work more than 50 hours a week. Read more.

Other headline news

Professor Roger Stupp moves to cancer centre at Northwestern University, Chicago

The widely-respected and internationally-renowned Swiss neuro-oncologist, Professor Roger Stupp, has been appointed as Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Chicago, USA. Professor Stupp has written over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, editorials and book chapters, is President of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), and is known for pioneering the ‘Stupp protocol’, a standard of care for glioblastoma treatment since 2005. He will become a Professor of Neurological Surgery at the institute in April 2017, where he will work with other neuro-oncologists in the Northwestern University Department of Neurology and the Lurie Cancer Center’s Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute. Read more.

Review finds that Advance Care Planning is ‘eminently important’ for glioblastoma patients

A review of existing research published in the journal Cancers, explores the use of Advance Care Planning (ACP) in glioblastoma care. The ACP process involves patients and their relatives in decision-making on future (and palliative) care soon after diagnosis, with the aim of improving symptoms, quality of life, and overall outcome. Charting the historical shift from doctor-centred to shared decision-making, the authors explain how ACP could be used in glioblastoma patients, describing how beneficial it could be, and recommending it as a topic of future research. Read more (full article).

Clinical trial results of TPI 287 show “meaningful drug activity” in recurrent glioblastoma, Cortice Biosciences announces

Data presented at SNO 2016 from a phase 1/2 trial (CB-017) of Cortice Biosciences’ drug TPI 287 have shown that 64% of recurrent glioblastoma patients who received the treatment alongside bevacizumab (Avastin) were alive after one year (compared to historical rates of 25-38%). TP 287 is a ‘microtubule stabilising agent’ that strengthens the natural scaffolding that surrounds brain cells, thus reducing brain tumour cells’ ability to invade and spread. Safety data from the 22 patients in the trial were “favourable” and Cortice Biosciences is planning a phase 3 trial for TPI 287 in glioblastoma. Read more (company press release).

Research news

The Pediatric Brain Tumor Atlas will provide large library of data for researchers 

The Pediatric Cancer Moonshot 2020 Consortium has announced the launch of ‘The Pediatric Brain Tumor Atlas Project’, a project that aims to analyse genetic data from 1,600 childhood brain tumour patients in the next six months. The large library of information will be made publicly available to all researchers, in the hope that it will help advance treatments for all types of childhood brain tumours. Read more.

‘Next-generation’ genetic testing improves diagnosis in childhood brain tumours, clinical research finds

In a clinical study, published in Neuro-Oncology, brain tumour samples from 31 paediatric patients were genetically tested for 510 cancer-associated genes, the results of which led to changes in management in the majority (81%). The test results supplemented the microscopic (pathology) results, giving clarification on diagnosis and guiding patient-specific treatment. Crucially, in six patients, the diagnosis was changed, and in one patient who was receiving treatment for an “indeterminate grade” tumour, therapy was stopped when genetic sequencing showed it to be non-malignant. Read more.

Study finds a test that could help identify the most aggressive meningioma tumours early

Rhabdoid meningiomas are classified as a highly aggressive type of meningioma, but their clinical progress is very variable. A study published in Neuro-Oncology has found that patients whose tumours had a mutated BAP1 gene had a poor outcome, suggesting this could be a marker to predict outcome and guide treatment decisions. Read more.

Research shows ‘RSK2’ protein drives tumour growth, suggesting new treatment approach

Research published in Oncotarget has found that a protein, called RSK2, controls glioblastoma cells’ ability to invade and grow. Analysis of patient tumour data showed that high levels of RSK2 in tumour tissue is linked to a worse prognosis. Lab-based experiments also found that inhibiting this protein reduced glioblastoma tumour cell growth and improved temozolomide effectiveness, suggesting that RSK inhibitors could be a possible future treatment. Read more.

Rare genetic disorder, Seckel syndrome, offers insights into medulloblastoma growth

Published in the journal Development, experiments in mice have shown that a genetic mutation in the rare disorder Seckel syndrome may drive medulloblastoma tumours. The condition is linked to microcephaly (a small head at birth) and medulloblastoma tumours. Researchers found that blocking one of the disorder’s faulty genes (ATR) reduced growth of medulloblastoma tumours in mice, suggesting the genetic fault as a target for treatment of medulloblastoma more generally. Read more.

‘Quaking’ gene allows cancer stem cells to keep dividing, study shows

Glioma cancer stem cells, a group of cells that withstand treatment and are thought to drive brain tumour growth, can reproduce indefinitely due to a fault in a specific gene called ‘quaking’ (Qki), according to research published in Nature Genetics. Cancer stem cells can survive within small areas of the brain, but when these cells develop a mutation in Qki, they are able to invade other regions, the authors concluded. Read more.

First symptoms and brain scan results predict outcome in elderly glioblastoma patients, study finds

An analysis of medical data from 339 glioblastoma patients aged over 70, treated between 2010 and 2015, has identified various factors that can predict outcome. Seizures as the first symptoms, higher level of daily functioning (performance status), fewer tumours and a lack of ‘mass effect’ on brain imaging, were all independently linked to better survival. Read more.

And in other news...

Couple defy the odds to tie the knot, despite glioblastoma diagnosis

Becky Yonker was diagnosed with a ‘grade 4 brain tumour’ in July 2013, one year after meeting her partner, Jarrod Bradley. Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy made marriage seem impossible. Yet despite the tumour recurring in December 2015, doctors and nurses took it upon themselves to help organise a wedding ceremony for Becky and Jarrod and the couple were finally married in November. Everything was donated including the venue, food, music and photographer. "Eight of us were there that day," Becky's neuro-oncologist Dr. Ashley Sumrall recalls. "My nurse practitioner was the pianist, our chaplain performed the ceremony, my mother and I designed the flowers."Read more.

Conference and event news

Free-to-attend event: 4th Quality of Life and Cancer Clinical Trials Conference

The EORTC (European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer) is hosting a two-day conference and training event on ‘Quality of Life and Cancer Clinical Trials’ in Brussels, Belgium, on 20th and 21st April, 2017. The event is free to attend, and over 30 speakers will talk about all aspects of designing quality of life studies. Patients will also present their view of quality of life across the European Union. Travel scholarships for students, nurses and attendees from developing countries  are available on a first-come first-served basis. Read more.

Call for abstracts

BNOS 2017
Abstracts are now being accepted for the British Neuro Oncology Society (BNOS) Conference 2017, which is themed “Engaging Science Enhancing Survival”, and will be held in Edinburgh from Wednesday 21st – Friday 23rd June 2017. To submit an abstract or find out more, click here.

4th Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Basic and Translational Research Conference
Abstracts for the 4th Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Basic and Translational Research Conference can now be submitted online. The Society for Neuro-Oncology-hosted biennial event will be held on 15th – 16th  June, 2017 at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel in New York, New York. Abstract submission deadline is January 20th, 2017. To submit an abstract, click here

Upcoming conferences and events

European Cancer Conference (ECCO) 2017
27-30 January 2017
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Royal Marsden Paediatric Neuro-Oncology Study Day
13 February 2017
London, UK

CNIO Frontiers Meeting: Primary and Secondary Brain Tumours
19-22 February 2017
Madrid, Spain

Keep up to date with future scientific conferences and events on the IBTA website conferences page here. If you are aware of a brain tumour-relevant conference, including any patient conferences, that we have not yet listed on the IBTA website then please let us know.

IBTA Website
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Who we are

The International Brain Tumour Alliance was established in 2005. It is a network of support, advocacy and information groups representing brain tumour patients and carers in different countries and also includes researchers, scientists, clinicians and allied health professionals who work in the field of brain tumours.
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Copyright © 2016 The International Brain Tumour Alliance, All rights reserved.


The International Brain Tumour Alliance (IBTA) makes every effort to be accurate regarding the information contained in this e-News (or in any documents, reports, notes or other material produced for and on behalf of the IBTA to which we provide a link in this e-News).  However, the IBTA accepts no liability for any inaccuracies or omissions herein nor can it accept liability for any loss or damage resulting from any inaccuracy in this information or third party information such as information on websites to which we link. The information contained in this e-News is for educational purposes only and should in no way be taken as a substitute for medical care nor is the information on the IBTA website meant to constitute medical advice or professional services. For medical care and advice, please contact your doctor. Inclusion of clinical trial news does not imply the IBTA’s particular endorsement or not of any trial.

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