UPDATED: Researchers hope to turn white blood cells into a vaccine

Researchers at Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute are working to figure out whether a vaccine made from a patient's own white blood cells can be used to attack cancers by slowing the growth of tumors. The method builds on a number of previous cancer vaccines such as Dendreon's ($DNDN) Provenge, which harnesses a patient's own immune cells to attack prostate cancer.  

The study focuses on the vaccine's effect on glioblastoma multiforme, a tumor that occurs in up to 10,000 Americans annually, according to the researchers' release. The vaccine aims to alter the normal course of the deadly tumors, which spread rapidly and typically kill most patients within a few years.

Researchers create the vaccine, ICT-107, by taking a patient's white blood cells through apheresis, separating out the various components. The white blood cells are then remedied to identify the patient's tumor cells. Early research shows these cells may then seek out and attack the cancer  cells.

About 225 patients nationally will be sought for the Phase II trial.

"Glioblastomas are complicated to treat because they are aggressive, fast-growing tumors that are often resistant to standard treatment," said James Chandler, co-director of the NBTI and surgical director of neuro-oncology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "In this trial, a vaccine is made using the person's own white blood cells, which we hope will have the power to stimulate an immune response to kill brain tumor cells."

- see the release

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Editor's note: This article was updated with additional information about cancer vaccines and brain tumors.