Stem cell agency, The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has awarded $19.9 million to ImmunoCellular Therapeutics to carry out a Phase 3 clinical trial in people with newly diagnosed glioblastoma using a kind of vaccine made from the patient’s own immune system. Every year, an estimated 13,000 Americans alone die from glioblastoma. Around 50 percent of people die within 15 months of diagnosis, and fewer than 10 per cent survive five years. C. Randal Mills, Ph.D., CIRM’s President and CEO, said: “This kind of deadly disease is precisely why we created CIRM 2.0, our new approval process to accelerate the development of therapies for patients with unmet medical needs. “People battling glioblastoma cannot afford to wait years for us to agree to fund a treatment when their survival can often be measured in just months. “We wanted a process that was more responsive to the needs of patients, and that could help companies like ImmunoCellular get their potentially life-saving therapies into clinical trials as quickly as possible.”

In a healthy individual, the body’s immune system usually spots and destroys foreign threats, such as viruses, bacteria and cancer cells, that have infiltrated our bodies. In glioblastoma, patients typically undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to destroy the tumor but such treatments only temporarily halt tumor progression, and the cancer usually returns within months due to the presence of cancer stem cells that can elude these treatments. The surviving cancer stem cells can make new cancer cells which eventually spread throughout the brain. In attacking this disease, the ImmunoCellular therapy targets six cell surface proteins that are found on glioblastoma cancer stem cells. Cells from the patient’s own immune system are exposed to fragments of these cancer cell surface proteins in the lab. When returned to the patient’s body, the immune system cells can now help detect, and hopefully kill, the cancer stem cells responsible for the tumor’s recurrence and growth.

ImmunoCellular plans to recruit about 400 patients at 120 clinical trial sites around the US, Canada and Europe. Results from ImmunoCellular’s earlier Phase 2 trial showed that patients given this therapy lived longer than those who received the standard treatment. It also showed minimal side effects. Also in America, the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) and Cbr Systems has announced a collaboration to customise the creation of high-quality stem cell lines, part of work to make the technology commercially scaleable. NYSCF will create induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines from umbilical cord tissue collected after birth from healthy newborns provided by CBR. NYSCF CEO and Co-founder Susan L. Solomon said: “Umbilical cord tissue is a largely untapped source of rich cells to be used in medical research and cell therapies.” Geoffrey Crouse, President of Cord Blood Registry and Executive Vice President of AMAG Pharmaceuticals, said: “We are excited by the efforts of NYSCF to further improve reprogramming technologies for induced pluripotent stem cells.”