PITTSBURGH. (KFSN) --Every year in the United States as many as 15,000 people are diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most aggressive kind of brain cancer. Many patients don't survive more than a year after diagnosis. A new test can help doctors pinpoint what is driving the tumor and better target their treatment early on.
Fifty-one-year-old Christopher Keim is a husband, dad and hockey coach. He felt perfectly fit until Christmas Eve 2014 when he was working in his yard.
Keim told Ivanhoe, "The sensation of hearing was exaggerated. I came in and the words were bouncing off the walls."
"We both thought it was a stroke, said Melissa Murphy, Keim's wife. " He tried to say stroke, and st, st was all he could get out for that."
An MRI revealed a brain tumor. Keim was in a coma for a month.
"They were afraid that I wasn't going to have the same personality. They were afraid I wasn't going to make it through it," Keim detailed.
He began to recover only to find that he had another brain tumor.
This time, doctors took a small sample of his tumor and ran it through cutting-edge molecular testing designed to pick up genetic mutations. It's called Glio Seq.
Dr. Jan Drappartz, a neuro-oncologist at UPMC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania told Ivanhoe, "The ability to understand on a molecular level what's driving a particular patient's tumor is crucial to identifying treatments early on."
In Keim's case, researchers identified a mutation that was treatable with a new vaccine therapy.
Without any evidence of tumor right now Keim can focus on his recovery.
"Keep a positive attitude and stay strong as possible," said Keim.
Doctors applied for a "compassionate use" exception for the vaccine they are using to treat Keim, since it was not FDA-approved for glioblastoma. The vaccine has been shown to extend the life of brain tumor patients by a year or more.
Glio Seq was developed at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh. Doctors say right now, some insurance covers it.
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