Please note: Names and figures have been redacted in accord with client’s confidentiality agreement.

Combating Brain Tumors through Cancer Vaccines

A Proposal for [Name of Donor]

 

Introduction

Throughout his career as a neurologist, researcher and educator, [name of doctor], MD has devoted much of his time and energy to the diagnosis treatment of brain tumors. Now, he and his research colleagues at [name of institution] are on the brink of a major breakthrough: a vaccine to shrink these tumors before they can cause suffering and death.

Each year, close to 19,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with primary brain tumors. The majority of these are high-grade gliomas – tumors that originate in the spine or most frequently, the brain. (They arise from glial cells, which are key cells in the brain and central nervous system.) High-grade gliomas are most often found in adults, but the condition also affects 15 to 20 percent of all children newly diagnosed with brain tumors each year.

These devastating tumors cannot be cured by traditional methods such as surgery and radiation. In some cases, patient survival has been prolonged by a combination of radiation therapy and newly developed drugs – but even in those instances, two-thirds of patients die within two years of being diagnosed. There is a crucial need for a new approach.

In recent years, medicine has increasingly turned to vaccines – which had proved so successful in the fight against diseases such as polio, smallpox and tetanus – as a weapon against several forms of cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved vaccines against the hepatitis B virus, which can cause liver cancer, and human papillomavirus types 16 and 18, which are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. The FDA has also approved one vaccine for certain men with metastatic prostate cancer. And now, investigators are exploring a new frontier: the use of vaccines to generate an immune-mediated response against high-grade gliomas and other brain tumors.

At [name of institution], a major research project is exploring the use of vaccines, with the long-term goal of preventing the recurrence of brain tumors after conventional therapy. If successful, this initiative could revolutionize the treatment of these tumors and bring hope to thousands of sufferers. Early results have been quite promising – and with your generous support, these will lead to major breakthroughs in the foreseeable future.

 

Specifics of the Project

Like other forms of cancer, high-grade gliomas and other brain tumors are able to expand by “outwitting” a patient’s immune system – so that the system often does not recognize cancer cells as it does bacteria, viruses and other intruders and is unable to mount a strong attack. In order to be effective, an anti-tumor vaccine needs to stimulate specific, powerful immune responses against the cells that are forming the tumor, so that the cells can be destroyed and the tumor can shrink.

The primary goal of this project is to determine whether patients’ immune systems can be programmed to target their brain tumors. In research trials, the immune systems of 30 patients with gliomas will be stimulated through the use of a vaccine composed of a combination of peptides. (A peptide is a chemical compound containing two or more amino acids that are bonded together; peptides regulate most physiological processes, acting in some situations as endocrine signals and in others as neurotransmitters or growth factors.) Patients will be injected with the vaccine every few weeks, and their response to the vaccine will be measured through blood tests as well as through the use of MRI scans to determine tumor shrinkage.

There have already been successful trials of the vaccine in children with a specific blood type and in animals. The next and most crucial step is to conduct a trial with human adults, using long peptides (peptides vary in length), which are effective with all blood types.

While this project is specifically focused on improving the survival of patients with recurrent high-grade gliomas, the vaccine could potentially be used for the treatment of other types of tumors and malignant disorders – and the results of our research could be applied to the production of vaccines for other illnesses, including infectious diseases.

 

Leadership

The lead investigator on the project is [name of doctor], MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at [name of institution]. Dr. [name]’s research has focused on the treatment of children with cancer. In particular, she has studied the use of high-dose chemotherapy with autologous stem cell rescue – a process in which stem cells are removed from a child undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for a brain tumor, then frozen and re-implanted once the tumor has been destroyed so that they can form new, healthy blood cells. More recently, she has begun to focus on incorporating immunotherapy, specifically vaccine approaches, for patients with certain kinds of brain tumors.

Dr. [name]’s co-investigators – Dr. [name], [name], MD, PhD, [name], MD, [name], MD, [name], PhD, [name], MD and [name], ScD – are a distinguished, experienced group of specialists in areas including neurosurgery, oncology, hematology, stem cell research and pathology.

 

Philanthropic Needs

The pre-clinical work for this project has been generously underwritten by [name of foundation], a private philanthropic organization that supports brain, immuno-imaging and clinical neuroscience research. The total cost of the clinical trial will be $[amount], which includes the costs of:

  • constructing the vaccine in our investigational pharmacy;
  • administering blood tests – first as a baseline, then in two-week intervals and then monthly for a year – to measure reactions to the vaccine;
  • hiring an outside monitor for the research trials; and providing coverage for patients in the trials whose insurance does not cover MRIs.

We are seeking a donation of $[amount], which will be a major step toward obtaining the necessary funding to see the project through to a successful conclusion.

Through your generous philanthropy, the groundbreaking research of Dr. [name], Dr. [name] and their team will result in the development of an effective vaccine – bringing a new lease on life to children and adults afflicted with brain tumors, and new hope to their families.