Clinical Trials Help Doctor 'Move the Line' on Survival for Brain Cancer Patients

Elder and Patient

Since joining the medical faculty at Ohio State in 2010, J. Bradley Elder, MD, associate professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery, has developed a portfolio of clinical trials that offer cutting-edge treatments for patients with cancers of the central nervous system, including those with an aggressive brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

GBM is incurable, and patients seldom survive beyond 15 months after diagnosis even if they undergo the full spectrum of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Dr. Elder seeks to “move the line” for optimizing and extending those patients’ life span through innovative therapy.

Among the many clinical trials in which he plays a leadership role is a multicenter, randomized, phase III study that will involve about 350 patients from 18-70 years old who are newly diagnosed with GBM. Dr. Elder is the institutional principal investigator at Ohio State for the study, which evaluates progression-free and overall survival time for patients who receive standard treatment plus an experimental dendritic-cell vaccine called DCVax-L, compared with patients who receive standard treatment supplemented with a placebo (inactive substance).

Dr. Elder says researchers hypothesize that both progression-free and overall survival will be longer for patients in the DCVax-L group compared with patients in the placebo group, possibly paving the way toward standard use of this vaccine for delaying cancer progression and extending lives.

“We would like, five years from now, to be able to say, ‘The line was 15 months and now it’s 30,’” Dr. Elder says. “Anything we can learn that tells us where or where not to push the line will help us better serve our patients.”