High-profile brain tumor therapy chooses UConn Health

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Dr. Kevin Becker, director of neuro-oncology at UConn Health is the primary investigator for the trial. Photo courtesy of UConn Health’s website.

UConn Health has been selected as one of a few locations in the United States to begin offering a promising new brain-tumor therapy as it is further evaluated for safety and efficacy, according to UConn Today.

The experimental therapy, which is currently in its second phase of clinical trials, combines what researchers call PVSRIPO, a viral immunotherapy based on the polio vaccine, with pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy drug shown to be effective in treating many other types of cancers, marketed under the brand name Keytruda, according to UConn Today. 

Investigators believe this dual-pronged approach of therapies may be able to generate a powerful and specific anti-tumor response in patients with an aggressive and often fatal kind of tumor, known as a recurrent malignant glioblastoma, according to UConn Today. 

Istari Oncology, Inc., the North Carolina-based biotechnology company sponsoring the research, has selected UConn Health as a site for this phase of the trial for this therapy, which they have dubbed the LUMINOS-101 trial, according to UConn Today. 

The company’s website claims that the need for this new kind of therapy is based on many shortcomings in current immunotherapy approaches, including primary (not responding to treatment) and secondary (responding to treatment initially before developing a resistance) resistance and safety concerns. As such, many tumors remain unresponsive to such treatments.  

PVSRIPO works to address these limitations through a potentially safer approach to eliciting an immune response that is durable and sustainable, even in difficult to treat tumors, according to the website.  

“Emerging clinical data are giving us confidence that PVSRIPO can safely, combined with anti-PD-1/L1 immunotherapies, increase or rekindle an antitumor immune response,” the website said. 

This is a tremendous example of the innovative trials we envision as we build our neuro-oncology program at UConn. We are extremely honored to be one of only a few selected sites for the LUMINOS-101 trial. This is truly a landmark trial for patients with recurrent glioblastomas,”

DR. KEVIN BECKER, DIRECTOR OF NEURO-ONCOLOGY AND UCONN HEALTH’S PRIMARY INVESTIGATOR FOR THE TRIAL

Neuro-oncology, or the study of the complex nature of tumors of the brain and spine, is still a relatively new field, and was not in place at UConn Health until the arrival of Dr. Kevin Becker in the summer of 2019, according to a UConn Health article.  

“This is a tremendous example of the innovative trials we envision as we build our neuro-oncology program at UConn. We are extremely honored to be one of only a few selected sites for the LUMINOS-101 trial. This is truly a landmark trial for patients with recurrent glioblastomas,” Dr. Kevin Becker, director of neuro-oncology and UConn Health’s primary investigator for the trial, said in the article. 

“To be selected as one of a handful of sites in the world for this trial is truly a tribute to Dr. Becker’s leadership, and it is also a tribute to the great multidisciplinary team that has been created through the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center and our Brain and Spine Institute,” Dr Ketain Bulsara, chief of UConn Health’s Division of Neurosurgery, told UConn Today. “UConn Health’s involvement in this very promising trial affirms our standing as a world-class institution for clinical care and research in neuro-oncology.” 

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