High-Profile Brain Tumor Therapy Trial Chooses UConn Health

An immunotherapy derived from the polio virus has shown improved survival rates in early-phase trials in patients with an aggressive type of brain tumor known as glioblastoma. UConn Health will be one of a select few sites in the U.S. for the second phase, which will pair it with the cancer immunotherapy pembrolizumab (Keytruda).

Dr. Keving Becker showing patient a brain image

Dr. Kevin Becker, UConn Health's neuro-oncologist, reviews a brain image. Becker is UConn Health's principal investigator for a national clinical trial of a brain tumor therapy that has shown promise in earlier research. (Photo by Tina Encarncacion.)

As a promising new therapy for certain brain tumors reaches the second phase of clinical trials, UConn Health will be one of the select few locations in the United States to make this treatment available to patients during the further evaluation of its safety and efficacy.

‘This is a tremendous example of the innovative trials we envision as we build our neuro-oncology program at UConn.’

Dr. Kevin Becker portrait white coat
—Dr. Kevin Becker
(Photo by Kristin Wallace)

The therapy combines what researchers are calling PVSRIPO, a viral immunotherapy based on the polio vaccine, with pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy drug shown to be effective in treating many other types of cancers, marketed under the brand name Keytruda. The rationale for studying these agents in combination is evidence that indicates these drugs work synergistically to activate the immune system to fight cancer. PVSRIPO has been granted “breakthrough therapy designation” from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for recurrent glioblastoma. It is also being studied across a range of cancers including melanoma, for which the FDA has granted “orphan drug status.”

Istari Oncology, Inc., the North Carolina-based biotechnology company sponsoring the research, has selected UConn Health as a site for this phase of the trial.

“This is a tremendous example of the innovative trials we envision as we build our neuro-oncology program at UConn,” says Dr. Kevin Becker, director of neuro-oncology and UConn Health’s primary investigator for this trial. “We are extremely honored to be one of only a few selected sites for the LUMINOS-101 trial. This is truly a landmark trial for patients with recurrent glioblastomas.”

comparative brain scans showing diminished tumor size after 25 months of infusion
Comparative brain scans show the difference in tumor size from before infusion to 25 months after infusion. The therapy used, known as PVSRIPO, is being studied in combination with the cancer immunotherapy pembrolizumab, with UConn Health among a select few sites for this phase of the clinical trial. (Images provided by Istari Oncology, Inc.)

LUMINOS-101 is how Istari Oncology is branding this clinical trial.

The investigators believe the one-two punch of therapies may be able to generate “a potent and specific anti-tumor response” in patients with recurrent malignant glioblastoma, a type of aggressive and often fatal brain tumor.

“To be selected as one of a handful of sites in the world for this trial is truly a tribute to Dr. Becker’s leadership, and it is also a tribute to the great multidisciplinary team that has been created through the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center and our Brain and Spine Institute,” says Dr. Ketan Bulsara, chief of UConn Health’s Division of Neurosurgery. “UConn Health’s involvement in this very promising trial affirms our standing as a world-class institution for clinical care and research in neuro-oncology.”

UConn Health will share additional details about the research, including information on eligibility requirements and how patients can participate, later this year.

Learn more about brain cancer care at UConn Health.