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Health Alert: Brain tumor vaccine

Posted on: 12/21/2005

Health Alert: Brain tumor vaccine

Dawndy Mercer on brain tumor vaccine

(National-NBC) Dec. 20, 2005 - When cancer strikes the brain, it's deadly. But an experimental vaccine may help patients live longer.

For Kevin Carlberg, 2002 was the "best of times and the worst of times." His band, Pseudo-pod, just signed a record deal and was on tour with a new CD.

Then, Kevin's health hit a sour note, "We were in Colorado, and I started getting these horrible headaches."

The rising young star had a deadly brain tumor. After surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Kevin entered a study to see if an experimental vaccine could keep the cancer from coming back, "I mean, so far, so good. It's been, come November 18th, three years since, since surgery and no regrowth."

Pretty amazing, considering the type of tumor Kevin had is almost 100 percent fatal.

About 29,000 Americans are diagnosed with a brain tumor each year. Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer death for children and the second leading cause of cancer death for adults.

Traditional treatment for brain tumors is surgery. But sometimes that's not possible, or stray cells are left behind, causing the tumor to eventually reappear.

Dr. Linda Liau explains, "The problem with brain cancer is that even with very little tumor cells left, the tumor comes back. It comes back in a matter of months."

Doctor Liau helped develop the vaccine at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center. Made from the patient's own tumor and white blood cells, it's designed to attack brain cancer cells, "The whole concept is to alert your immune system that these cells are abnormal and that your body should get rid of them."

Patients with brain cancer typically survive about 15 months.

So far, Kevin is beating the odds, "I just ran the L.A. Marathon. I have a brand new baby daughter. Life couldn't be any better as far as I'm concerned."

Doctor Liau will soon expand the brain cancer vaccine study to ten or 12 other sites. To find out if one is near you, log on to

Posted 5:05pm by Chantelle Janelle

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