A London-based Iranian neurosurgeon who is leading the first ever brain cancer vaccine trial in Europe, says he is satisfied with the initial results of this new therapy for the most aggressive form of brain cancer known as “glioblastoma tumour”.
Iranian surgeon: brain cancer vaccine is a promising therapy
In an exclusive interview with IRNA, Dr Keyoumars Ashkan, consultant neurosurgeon and Reader (Associate Professor) at King’s College Hospital London, said this is an individualised treatment based on each patientˈs own cancer type because glioblastomas are genetically different.
Under the supervision of Dr Ashkan, the first patient in Europe, a 62 year old male, has received the new vaccine in September last year. The vaccine had been produced from his own tumour after an operation in June.
“Since September we have recruited another 10 patients at Kingˈs College Hospital to this trial and so far I am happy with the progress of the trial ”, said Dr Ashkan, who is also the Lead for Neuro-Oncology at King’s College as well as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Neurosurgery.
However he stressed that this is still a trial and “we should be patient and test the vaccine on more patients to see how effective it would be at the end of the trial process.”
He said using all forms of common treatments available to us in 21st century including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy we can extend the survival of patients with glioblastoma tumour to 12 to 18 months.
“So I absolutely believe that we need a new and more effective technique to treat patients with glioblastoma and I hope this vaccine therapy can make a real difference.”
Initial reports from USA, where the brain cancer vaccine was first tested a few years ago, show that average survival time for patients has reached 36 months.
“If we can double the survival time at the first phase, it would be a good achievement in combating glioblastoma. Nowadays people who are fighting other types of cancer, for instance breast cancer, can even live for decades”, Dr Ashkan said.
Explaining the scientific basis of the brain cancer vaccine, the surgeon said when we are using the patient’s own tumour and blood to produce the vaccine, the main aim is to teach the immune cells to recognise the tumour and stimulate other cells in the immune system of the body to find and destroy the aggressive cells (cancer).
“This is one of the main advantages of vaccine therapy over standard ways of treating brain cancer”, he said, adding that “brain cancer vaccine is a promising therapy.”
With regard to the situation in Iran, he said “I don’t have exact figures for people suffering from glioblastoma in Iran but I know that like other countries around the world this type of dangerous brain cancer takes its toll in Iran too.”
When asked if he is ready to go to Iran and help people and experts with vaccine therapy, he responded immediately saying “yes, I will hundred percent do that.”
“If in Iran the necessary arrangements are made, I am ready to go and teach the students and doctors inside Iran and share my knowledge and expertise with them.”
Dr Ashkan who was born in western Tehran in 1968 said “it is an honour for me to serve my fellow countrymen in any capacity.”
“In fact I have never cut my connections with my beloved home country. I usually visit Iran once or twice a year, see patients, teach students and do operations on a charity basis in different cities and towns during my short stays.”
He was of the view that most Iranian experts living and working abroad have the same feelings about Iran and they are very keen to contribute to their home country and its people.
“At the same time we can learn from scientists inside the country, because despite being under heavy sanctions, Iran has managed to make good progress in scientific areas such as medicine.” Dr Ashkan said.