New Test for Brain Tumors

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A new test can help doctors pinpoint what is driving the tumor and better target their treatment early on. (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.

For more information on this report, please contact:

Wendy Zellner
Media Relations
UPMC
412-418-3573
Zellnerwl@upmc.edu
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