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Health Beat: A new attack on brain cancer

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 06 2014 10:29:48 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 06 2014 04:35:15 PM CST

Glioblastoma is one of the most deadly forms of cancer.

Glioblastoma is one of the most deadly forms of cancer. About 10,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with this aggressive brain tumor. Now, there’s a new treatment that may offer hope.

Burhan and Renee Oral know moments are precious. Burhan has glioblastoma – an aggressive brain cancer.

"They told me I had three to six months to live," Burhan said.

"Never ever, ever give up. That’s what I tell him," Renee said.

Five surgeries and 2-1/2 years later, Burhan is still here, but his cancer came back a few months ago.

"It's very much like we are playing chess with the tumor cells. For every drug we give it, the tumor cells could make a move," said Dr. Clark Chen, vice chairman of neurosurgery at the University of California San Diego Medical Center.

Chen told Burhan about a clinical trial testing a new, minimally invasive treatment for glioblastoma. First, he makes a small hole in the skull. Using MRI to guide a catheter to the brain, he then injects a virus directly into the tumor, which lights up on scans.

"So, we can actually see in real-time where the virus is as we inject it," Chen said.

The patient then takes a powerful anti-fungal drug that goes into every cell in the body. The virus activates the drug, telling it to attack the tumor. 

"What we are able to see is that the area where the viruses are injected, the tumor is melting away," Chen said.

Since the treatment, scans show no signs of cancer growth and Burhan continues to hope for the best.

The treatment is given as part of a phase-one clinical trial. It's considered a minimally-invasive brain procedure, and patients are discharged one day after having it. Because it's a targeted approach, Chen said there are fewer side-effects. In fact, he hasn’t observed any unwanted side-effects in his patients.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary

DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. Clark Chen about a new treatment for glioblastoma