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Brain Cancer Groups to Fund Pilot Trial of Individualized Approach to Immunotherapy

Published on May 12, 2020 in Press Release

National Brain Tumor Society and StacheStrong team up to fund clinical testing of a personalized therapeutic vaccine for pediatric and adult high-grade glioma patients

National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS), a leader in brain tumor patient advocacy, research, information and support, and StacheStrong, a nonprofit dedicated to raising funds and awareness for brain cancer research, have announced a $100,000 grant to Adilia Hormigo, MD, PhD, Director of the Neuro-Oncology Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai in New York City, New York. The grant will help fund a pilot clinical trial at Mount Sinai, led by Dr. Hormigo, evaluating a personalized approach to immunotherapy in both adults and children with high-grade glioma brain tumors.  

“Dr. Hormigo’s forthcoming trial presented a compelling funding opportunity for the National Brain Tumor Society’s Defeat Brain Tumors program, which directs philanthropic support to treatment-focused research projects that offer a clear path forward to clinical drug development efforts,” said Kirk Tanner, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, National Brain Tumor Society. “Capitalizing on the fact that every patient’s high-grade glioma tumor is unique in its molecular signature, Dr. Hormigo wants to develop a truly personalized vaccine that will be specifically tailored for each and every patient. Though this pilot study will be small, it is an important step necessary to demonstrate the potential validity of this approach.”

Anticipating an initial enrollment six patients, the trial will evaluate the safety, efficacy, and feasibility of delivering a therapeutic vaccine to patients made up of their own dendritic cells (isolated from blood samples), loaded with individualized multiple neoantigens made from synthetic peptides created in the laboratory and based on the specific alterations found in a patient’s tumor tissue. Previously, Dr. Hormigo has initiated ongoing pilot studies for glioblastoma patients of both a personalized multi-peptide therapeutic vaccine, as well as a dendritic cell vaccine, which have demonstrated encouraging early results. In the new NBTS-StacheStrong funded study, Dr. Hormigo plans to combine these two earlier approaches. These vaccines will be tested alone and in combination with immune checkpoint inhibiting drugs. 

“This grant is important to StacheStrong for a multitude of reasons,” said Colin Gerner, President and Co-Founder of StacheStrong. “From a medical standpoint, we believe Dr. Hormigo’s approach has strong promise for drug development. From a personal standpoint, Dr. Hormigo treated my brother, GJ, for 25 months and is the definition of a patient-centric neuro-oncologist. Knowing that GJ’s battle has directly resulted in this partnership to fund a promising trial is everything to us.”

Dendritic cells (DCs) are a special type of cell that boosts immune responses by presenting antigens to T-cells. T-cells recognize an antigen as ‘foreign’ and initiate an immune response. Dr. Hormigo’s study will generate neoantigens — newly formed antigens that arise as a result of a tumor mutation — that are actually synthetic peptides based on a molecular analysis of each individual patient’s own tumor. Loaded onto the patients’ own DCs, these synthetic peptides will help the new vaccine teach T-cells to mount an immune response against a tumor. Because immune checkpoint inhibitors can help increase the number of T-cells available in the tumor’s neighborhood, or microenvironment, it is anticipated that combining these treatments will generate a more effective immune assault on patients’ tumors. 

“I am pleased to receive this funding for my research that aims to reverse the immunosuppression of the tumor microenvironment of glioblastoma (GBM),” said Dr. Hormigo. “With this strategy, we hope to successfully treat glioblastoma patients and change the fate of their disease.”

High-grade gliomas consist of tumors classified as World Health Organization (WHO) grade III and IV glioma. Gliomas account for approximately 25% of all primary brain tumors, and 80% of all primary malignant brain tumors (brain cancer). A majority of gliomas are high-grade gliomas, including glioblastoma, anaplastic astrocytoma, and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). These tumors have especially poor survival rates, representing a major unmet medical need. The most common high-grade glioma (and, indeed, most common malignant brain tumor), glioblastoma, has a five-year relative survival rate of only six percent. And the survival rate for DIPG patients is less than one percent. 

About National Brain Tumor Society

National Brain Tumor Society invests in, mobilizes, and unites the brain tumor community to discover a cure, deliver effective treatments, and advocate for patients and care partners. We are the largest patient advocacy non-profit solely dedicated to the brain tumor community and a leader in collaborating with the neuro-oncology field. Headquartered in Newton, Massachusetts, our organization raises funds to invest in accelerating brain tumor treatments, prepare the community to navigate their unique brain tumor experience, and convene stakeholders while changing public policy to improve the lives and survival of brain tumor patients. Visit us at

About StacheStrong

StacheStrong is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity focused on raising funds and awareness for brain cancer research. All proceeds that StacheStrong raises will be going directly to brain cancer research. Learn more about StacheStrong at and interact with them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @StacheStrong.

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