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The 3 Year Anniversary of my 3rd Brain Surgery & Brain Cancer Vaccine

By Jeannine Walston  |   Nov - 18 - 2016  |  


As I know how the unexpected can happen anytime, milestones can provide a sense of remarkable achievements. On November 18, 2013, my third awake brain surgery was performed by Linda Liau, MD, PhD at UCLA, and today marks my three-year anniversary. In the surgical process, Dr. Liau removed portions of my brain tumor cells to be included in a Phase II clinical trial of DCVax-L immunotherapy with a dendritic cell-based vaccine developed at UCLA. And I’m still here, alive, and thriving.

On October 27, I attended the 2016 Visionary Ball at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel with nearly 700 people honoring outstanding individuals and providing donations to the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery. The evening was divine, and Dr. Liau received the Medical Visionary Award. She is world-renowned in her field, with a long list of accomplishments and cutting-edge approaches for tackling this complicated disease. Dr. Liau’s clinical expertise is in intraoperative functional brain mapping and the use of intraoperative imaging for the resection of brain tumors, specifically for gliomas, meningiomas, and metastatic tumors. Her research efforts are focused on the molecular biology of brain tumors, gene therapy, immunotherapy, and developing brain cancer vaccines.

Nearly two decades ago, Dr. Liau’s early research led to the development of the very first personalized brain cancer vaccine in the U.S. The DCVax-L vaccine works by combining a patient’s surgically removed tumor tissue with their own dendritic immune cells drawn from blood to create a personalized treatment. This customized treatment is formulated by activating the patient’s own dendritic cells against the tumor cells in the laboratory, and then injecting them back into the body to jumpstart the patient’s immune system to train “killer T cells” to seek out and kill the tumor in the brain.

Dr. Liau is the Principal Investigator of the DCVax-L research, which is in Phase III randomized, multi-center clinical trials for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in more than 50 hospitals in the U.S. and multiple centers internationally. Dr. Liau’s dream is to validate the vaccine and other novel immunotherapies as a standard treatment for patients with GBM—in conjunction with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—and to continue working towards finding a cure for brain cancer.

I’m inspired to share all of that because I received the vaccine dealing with Grade III Anaplastic Astrocytoma (AA). Moreover, I’ve met and spoken with Grade IV glioblastoma (GBM) patients treated by Dr. Liau with surgery and the DCVax-L vaccine clinical trials who have experienced remarkable results. Some of those GBM patients include: Jennifer, a 16-year GBM survivor; Brad, a 13-year GBM survivor; Elijah, a 9-year GBM survivor; Gallia, a 5-year GBM survivor; Jamil, a 4-year GBM survivor; and several other individuals.

Along with these patients treated with the DCVax-L, I know that it can be possible for some GBM patients to experience improved outcomes from the vaccine.

I recognize the urgency of the UCLA Brain Tumor Program to review clinical trial data and to develop new imaging and blood biomarkers to determine which patients may benefit most from DCVax-L and other types of immunotherapies, and I am aware of other strategies in their research.

I ask that you make a tax-deductible donation directly to the UCLA Brain Tumor Program in support of Dr. Liau. You can make a difference by supporting her incredible work. Thank you very much for your consideration.