Dr Neil

U of M begins Phase I of first-in-human clinical trial for glioblastoma 

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - January 7, 2021 - Physicians and scientists at the University of Minnesota have opened a new brain cancer clinical trial and have treated their first patient. This Phase I, first-in-human trial is enrolling patients with a specific type of brain cancer, glioblastoma. The development for this innovative treatment is based on years of research from Michael Olin, PhD, and Christopher Moertel, MD, researchers in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Pediatrics, as well as a high-grade canine clinical trial conducted by G. Elizabeth Pluhar, DVM, PhD, DACVS, in the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences. The researchers are also members of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

“Our research found that the CD200 protein was acting as a protective shield inside a person’s brain tumor, effectively preventing the immune system or immune-directed therapy from attacking the tumor,” said Dr. Olin. “The CD200 checkpoint inhibitor that we developed, along with a proven vaccine, has shown amazing results in our tests and has the potential to have fewer adverse effects for patients.”

Prior to being available to human patients, Olin and Moertel partnered with Pluhar at the College of Veterinary Medicine to treat pet dogs that spontaneously developed brain cancer. The CD200 checkpoint inhibitor, when added to a cancer vaccine therapy, increased their canine patients’ survival time by about 18 months after diagnosis compared to vaccine therapy alone. These tumors ultimately do recur in both dogs and people, but the time to regrowth was greatly extended in the dogs that received the experimental therapy, and their quality of life during treatment was excellent.

The Masonic Cancer Center continually conducts research to determine how cancers that occur in animals are similar to cancers that occur in people, known as comparative oncology. Researchers are then able to apply what they learn from companion animals, like dogs, to people, and vice versa, with the goal to improve the health and wellbeing of both at a rapid pace.

“We have started with brain tumors, and now we plan to expand this therapy platform to melanoma, lung cancer, and other difficult-to-treat malignancies,” noted Dr. Moertel.

The single-site study opened at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center and is being led by neuro-oncologist Elizabeth Neil, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

“As a neuro-oncologist who has dedicated my professional career to advancing therapeutic options for brain cancer patients, this combination treatment regimen could mark a landmark breakthrough in the field and be a real game-changer,” said Neil. “Each year about 12,000 Americans are diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer for which there is currently no cure. Targeting CD200 could be the missing link in allowing the patient’s own vaccine-strengthened immune system to commence an all-out, unrestrained attack on the cancer cells. For too long has glioblastoma evaded our most innovative treatment attempts. Now I believe we have the upper hand, and I am thrilled to offer this as a treatment option through our carefully developed Phase I clinical trial.”

About the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

The Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, is the Twin Cities’ only Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated ‘Outstanding’ by the National Cancer Institute. As Minnesota’s Cancer Center, we have served the entire state for more than 25 years. Our researchers, educators, and care providers have worked to discover the causes, prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer and cancer-related diseases. Learn more at cancer.umn.edu.

About the University of Minnesota Medical School

The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care, and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. Learn how the University of Minnesota is innovating all aspects of medicine by visiting www.med.umn.edu.

About the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine

The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s Cancer Care and Research Program is an international leader in translating discoveries into improved cancer treatment. The College affects the lives of animals and people every day through educational, research, service, and outreach programs. We are dedicated to the education of future and current veterinarians and biomedical scientists and the discovery of new knowledge and skills.