Researchers find new immunotherapy target in aggressive brain tumors

NY-ESO-1 staining in meningiomav2_hi resResearchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have discovered that a protein associated with melanomas and a variety of other cancers is also present in nearly 100 percent of malignant, aggressive forms of a common brain tumor — meningiomas. Although meningiomas are benign in 90 percent of cases, about 10 percent are either atypical and/or malignant.

The discovery of the NY-ESO-1 protein in malignant forms of meningiomas is significant, according to a statement from Johns Hopkins, because they could serve as a new target for immunotherapies in cases that do not respond to current treatments.

There are about 66 clinical trials focusing on the NY-ESO-1 protein in various stages of development, according to the website.

There’s one trial of particular interest at the National Cancer Institute. It’s beginning Phase 2 clinical trials for an anticancer vaccine. The idea is to activate the immune systems of patients with other types of tumors that express the protein, training the body to attack the cancer and eradicate it.


What’s interesting, according to a statement from Johns Hopkins, is in the NCI trial, NY-ESO-1 is found in a much smaller percentage of tumors than Dr. Gregory J. Riggins, a professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and his team found intheir study of high-grade meningiomas.

“Typically there is a lag time before a laboratory finding like this leads to a clear path forward to help patients,” said Riggins. “But in this case, since there is already a clinical trial underway, we have a chance of helping people sooner rather than later.”

The findings by Riggins and his team were published in the journal Cancer Immunology Research.

Immunotherapy is a particularly active area of cancer research and treatment development, according to the Aamerican Cancer Society.