December 21, 2023

UW clinical trial tests new way to treat glioblastoma

Imvax glioblastoma illustration
Imvax glioblastoma illustration

Study tests if immunotherapy implants can fight deadly brain cancer

MADISON, Wis. – A clinical trial now open at UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center uses a patient’s dying tumor cells to try to teach their immune system to find and destroy cancer cells following surgery for a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma.

The Carbone Cancer Center is one of about two dozen cancer centers testing a new investigational immunotherapy approach to treating one of the deadliest cancers.

Glioblastoma tends to recur and patients live, on average, only 15 months after diagnosis and treatment with brain surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. However, a subset of patients in a phase 1b clinical trial of this approach, which was designed to test the safety of the treatment, lived an average of 38 months when they received the highest dose of immunotherapy. The phase 2b clinical trial plans to enroll 93 newly diagnosed patients.

“We’re really excited to offer our patients the chance to test this new investigational approach to treat newly diagnosed glioblastoma,” said Dr. Ankush Bhatia, assistant professor of neurology, and a neuro-oncologist and co-leader of the neuro-oncology clinical trials program at Carbone. “The aim of this personalized medicine method is to teach the patient’s immune system to recognize and destroy their own cancer cells.”

This study is specifically for patients who will be having their first neurosurgery at UW Health.

After undergoing surgery to remove the brain tumor, the patients stay in the hospital for about six days. During that time, a portion of the removed tumor is combined with a compound called IMV-001, which is designed to interfere with a protein the cancer needs to grow and thrive, this combination process is referred to as IGV-001.

The treated tumor cells and IMV-001 are placed in small diffusion chambers, about the size of a dime, and treated with radiation. Physicians then implant about 20 of these chambers into the patient’s abdomen, where they remain for two days. During this time, the dying tumor cells release antigens in the hope that they will train the patient’s immune system to find and fight the cancer.

The chambers are removed after 48 hours while the patient is still in the hospital recovering from surgery, so participating in the trial doesn’t necessitate an extra hospital stay.

The trial is double-blinded and placebo-controlled, meaning some patients will receive chambers without tumor cells or IMV-001. All participants in the trial will be treated with the current standard of care for glioblastoma: Surgery to remove the tumor, followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

For more information about the phase 2b trial of investigational IGV-001, visit Funding support for the trial is provided by Imvax, a clinical-stage biotechnology company.

Patients newly diagnosed with glioblastoma and their physicians interested in learning more about the trial at Carbone can contact the Clinical Trials Navigation Office at (608) 262-0439 or