Henry Ford Pioneering New Treatment For Aggressive Brain Tumors

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Henry Ford Hospital. Photo by Mikerussell at Wikimedia Commons

Henry Ford Hospital. Photo by Mikerussell at Wikimedia Commons

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DETROIT — Henry Ford Hospital’s Hermelin Brain Tumor Center is the first U.S. hospital to start a new clinical trial for Toca 511 & Toca FC, a combination therapy under investigation for high-grade glioma, a fast-growing brain cancer that often recurs even after surgery, radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

The investigational treatment combines Toca 511 (vocimagene amiretrorepvec), a biologic drug, with Toca FC, an extended-release tablet containing the antibiotic flucytosine.

“The combination of Toca 511 and  flucytosine has been shown in mouse studies to destroy brain cancer tumors, leave healthy tissue unharmed, and extend survival in most animals,” says Steven Kalkanis, M.D., co-director of the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center.

Glioma is very difficult to treat successfully because, rather than being a clearly defined mass, the tumor blends with healthy brain tissue and sends out tentacles of microscopic cancer cells.

Standard treatment begins with surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by irradiating the brain, and chemotherapy in an attempt to kill any remaining cancer cells. Even after these extreme measures, the cancerous tumor often returns.

“The focus of the clinical trial now being conducted at Henry Ford and other leading U.S. neuro-oncology centers takes a radically different approach to killing the virulent brain cancer,” says Tom Mikkelsen, M.D., co-director of the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center.

In this clinical trial, immediately after surgeons remove as much of the recurrent high-grade glioma as possible, the biologic drug Toca 511 will be injected into the “bed,” or portion of the brain from which the tumor was removed. Henry Ford Hospital is also participating in a similar clinical trial whereby Toca 511 is administered at the time of tumor biopsy.

After allowing time for Toca 511 to spread through the tumor, each patient begins a course of oral Toca FC tablets. If tolerated well, these courses will be repeated. An MRI scan will be performed every two months during the trial period to measure the treatment’s effectiveness.

According to Tocagen Inc., the San Diego-based biotechnology company that developed the investigational treatment, Toca 511 is designed to selectively deliver to cancer cells the genetic instructions to produce the cytosine deaminase enzyme, which can then convert the antibiotic flucytosine into the potent anti-cancer drug 5-FU inside the cancer cells.

To be eligible for the clinical trial, patients must be at least 18 years old and be considering surgery to remove a tumor that has recurred or progressed following surgery, radiation and chemotherapy with temozolomoide.

Henry Ford is now screening patients for using this investigational therapy.

In addition to Henry Ford, clinical trials with Toca 511 & Toca FC are being conducted at other leading neurooncology centers in the United States.

Patients and referring physicians can call (313) 916-8961 for further information.

The Hermelin Brain Tumor Center at Henry Ford has long been a national leader in research and advanced brain tumor therapies. The Center is one of only 15 brain tumor centers nationwide — and the only center from Michigan — participating in the National Cancer Institute’s Adult Brain Tumor Consortium to provide the most advanced care to patients in the United States. It offers advanced surgical options, including the first high-field intraoperative MRI in Michigan for the most complete tumor removal possible.

The Hermelin Brain Tumor Center is a leading center for advanced clinical trials with more than $30 million in research funding the past 10 years and more than 40 percent of patients enrolled and is the developer of the National Guidelines for treatment of metastatic brain tumors. The Center was founded in honor of David Hermelin, a Michigan businessman, philanthropist, and U.S. Ambassador to Norway. To learn more, visit www.HenryFord.com.

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