John Worch thought his life was over last April when he found out he had stage four Glioblastoma -- the deadliest kind of brain tumor.
The elementary school principal, who also serves in the air national guard, had the three and a half inch tumor removed.
In February, it started growing back.
John got in touch with Neuro-Oncologist Doctor Andrew Brenner who enrolled him into a first-of-its-kind gene therapy study.
As part of the one-time treatment, John was injected with a cold virus.
The doctor says the virus delivers that engineered gene to cells around the brain tumor -- signaling them to die.
Doctor Brenner says right now only three people in the world are taking part in the study.
Of the patients who have been treated, none of them have had tumor growth. A promising sign, but Brenner says it's too early to draw any conclusions.
John says he feels better since the treatment.
He hopes the innovative therapy will allow him to keep working with these children and be here for his own children.
More information on next page.
WHAT IS A BRAIN TUMOR? A brain tumor is a mass of excess cells that grows in the brain. Tumors can be benign or malignant: benign tumors are not cancerous and are not usually life-threatening, while malignant tumors are cancerous and can be life-threatening. Benign tumors can usually be removed without issue. Primary brain tumors develop in the brain, whereas secondary, or metastatic tumors, originate elsewhere and move to the brain. Symptoms of a brain tumor include frequent headaches, unexplained nausea or vomiting, blurred or double vision, difficulties with balance or speaking, hearing problems and personality changes, among others. (SOURCE: http://www.mayoclinic.com)
TYPES OF BRAIN TUMOR: Primary brain tumors are usually named for the part of the brain or the cells from which they originate. While there are many types of brain tumors, the most common types in adults are:
Astrocytoma- These tumors originate from star-shaped cells called astrocytes and normally occur in the cerebrum.
Meningioma- This type of tumor is usually benign and slow-growing and arises in the meninges. It can be any grade.
Oligodendroglioma- This type of tumor usually occurs in the cerebrum and originates from the fatty cells that cover nerves in the brain. It is most common in middle-aged adults.
Doctors rate tumors by grade, with grade I being the least harmful and grade IV being the most harmful.
Grade I tumors are benign, and they grow slowly. The cells in a grade I tumor mostly look like normal cells.
Grade II tumors are malignant. The cells look less normal than those of a grade I tumor.
Grade III tumors are also malignant and actively growing. The cells of a grade III tumor look very different than normal cells.
Grade IV tumors are the worst kind. They are malignant, and they tend to grow rapidly, with highly abnormal-looking cells.
(SOURCE: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/brain/page3 )
TREATMENTS: Most brain tumors are treated by surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or some combination of the three. Surgery removes the tumor from the brain and is usually the first treatment option. Radiation uses X-rays, gamma rays or protons to kill tumor cells and generally comes after surgery. Chemotherapy kills the tumor using drugs.
Recent research has looked at using oncolytic viruses to kill brain tumors. Oncolytic viruses are viruses that are specifically programmed to target and kill tumor cells. The virus is injected into the blood stream and is encoded to only kill tumor cells and to only replicate itself if there are tumor cells present. Therefore, when the virus has successfully eradicated the tumor, it stops replicating and dies.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Elizabeth Allen, Media Communications Officer
UT Health Science Center San Antonio
San Antonio, TX
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