Indian doctor at top U.S. Hospital reveals brain cancer treatment breakthrough

A novel vaccine that stimulates the immune system is improving outcomes for patients with the most aggressive form of brain cancer, a Delhi-trained doctor has revealed.

Dr. Manmeet Ahluwalia is thedirector of the Brain Metastasis Research Program at Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute, which is involved in a groundbreaking study of a new treatment for glioblastoma (GBM).

“The use of the vaccine SurVaxM shows great promise for improving survival in newly diagnosed GBM patients,” he said.

“While we are still in the relatively early phases of testing this vaccine, we are seeing some very promising results which give us a lot of hope for this patient population.”

Dr. Ahluwalia, a graduate of Maulana Azad Medical College, University of Delhi,is a principal investigator in the multi-center study.

He presented its interim findings at the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago on June 3rd.

Dr. Ahluwalia cited the case of Jeff Tabor, 53, one of the 55 patients who followed the traditional GBM treatments of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation with ongoing doses of SurVaxM, a first-of-its-kind immunotherapy that has been engineered to stimulate patients’ immune response to control tumor growth and recurrence.

“In Jeff’s case, he has gone almost 18 months from his diagnosis, and – on his recent MRI scans – we do not see any evidence of cancer growing going back in his brain,”Dr. Ahluwalia

Tabor, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, makes lengthy round trips to Cleveland Clinic’s Ohio headquarters with his wife, Cynthia, to receive the treatment and periodic MRIs to gauge the results.

The father of threesaid: “This vaccine is unique to this particular trial, and all the stars aligned for me to (be eligible) to get accepted into it.

“Dr. Ahluwalia is really encouraged by my progress. Life is good!”

Tabor began having difficulty speaking, reading, and comprehending certain words in early 2017, and was diagnosed with GBM. Doctors performed surgery at a hospital in Pittsburgh to remove the golf ball-sized tumor, which immediately alleviated his symptoms.

Since most GBM patients only survive about 15 to 16 months with standard therapy, Tabor aggressively pursued additional treatment options, which led him to inquire about the vaccine trial, which is in its second phase.

SurVaxM stimulates the immune system to kill tumor cells that contain survivin, a protein that helps cancer cells resist conventional treatments. Preliminary results of the first 55 patients in the SurVaxM trial reveal a 12-month overall survival rate of 90.9 percent from diagnosis and 70.8 percent from first immunization, a vast improvement over traditional treatment alone. Jeff and other patients experienced few, if any, side effects. Researchers now plan to conduct a randomized prospective trial of SurVaxM for GBM patients.

With his oldest son about to go off to college at the University of Texas at Austin, Tabor is looking forward to spending a normal summer of trips to the local pool with his family, while continuing his career as a program manager for Microsoft.

“If you would have told me a year ago that I would feel this great today, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he observed. “Every day has been better than the previous day.”

Company: Cleveland Clinic


Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey.

Among Cleveland Clinic’s 51,000 employees are more than 3,500 full-time salaried physicians and researchers and 14,000 nurses, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic’s health system includes a 165-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 10 regional hospitals, more than 150 northern Ohio outpatient locations – including 18 full-service family health centers and three health and wellness centers – and locations in Weston, Fla.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2016, there were 7.1 million outpatient visits, 161,674 hospital admissions and 207,610 surgical cases throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 185 countries.

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