Stem Cell Transplants Followed by Immunotherapy Show Efficacy Against Pediatric Nerve Tumors

A new cancer treatment protocol that involves transplanting stem cells into cancer patients and then taking them through immunotherapy has proven to be quite effective at treating pediatric nerve tumors. Researchers from the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen and St. Anna Children’s Cancer Research Institute found that harvesting stem cells from the parents of children with pediatric nerve tumors gives the patient a new immune system that’s much better at responding to immunotherapy.

Nerve tumors are mutated growths that develop in or on peripheral nerves. They typically affect the tissues that support nerve cells, are typically noncancerous and can be treated via surgery. Unlike other cancer treatments that rely on external drugs or action (surgery) to fight cancer directly, immunotherapy leverages a cancer patient’s own immune system to target and kill cancer cells.

Immunotherapy drugs essentially train the patient’s immune system and make it a much more effective cancer-killing machine. However, this treatment requires that the patient’s immune system be strong enough to fight cancer cells once the immunotherapy begins. Treating pediatric nerve tumors can also be quite difficult due to the proximity of the tumors to the nervous system and brain.

Researchers improved the treatment outcomes of these often hard-to-treat tumors by strengthening the patient’s immune system via stem cell infusions from their parents.

Ruth Ladenstein, MD, study coauthor and MedUni Vienna Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine professor as well as head of St. Anna Children’s Cancer Research Institute’s Studies & Statistics group for Integrated Research and Projects, explains that stem cells from a patient’s parents “equipped them with a new immune system.” This new immunity triggered a stronger anticancer immune response after immunotherapy, she said, resulting in improved outcomes for the patients.

More than one-half of the patients were still alive five years or longer in subsequent follow-ups, Landstein says, noting that the combination of stem cell transplantations led to “remarkable outcomes” for patients who had a limited response to immunotherapy. Furthermore, the patients reported no significant side effects, and there was a relatively low graft-versus-host-disease frequency.

According to the professor, stem cell transfusions from parents transfer natural killer cells to patients, bolstering their immune system’s ability to detect and destroy tumor cells. Since chemotherapy can inhibit the killer cells’ ability to destroy cancer cells, Landstein explains that it was only reasonable to transplant new natural killer cells before administering immunotherapy.

The researcher says that more studies will be necessary to further refine the technique and determine the potential benefits of having a new, stronger immune system when symptoms reappear.

As enterprises such as BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (NASDAQ: BVXV) invest in developing immunotherapies targeting different conditions, more patients could possibly benefit from the improved clinical outcomes when stem cell transplantation is paired with immunotherapy.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (NASDAQ: BVXV) are available in the company’s newsroom at

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