Lenox Hill Hospital Launches First U.S. Trial Of Innovative Method to Treat Aggressive Brain Cancer

Lenox Hill's new clinical trial aims to treat brain cancer by delivering chemotherapy directly to the tumor.

Lenox Hill Hospital’s neurosurgical team has begun a groundbreaking new clinical trial to treat glioblastoma – a malignant and highly aggressive brain cancer – through a novel method: by delivering medication directly to the tumor. The trial, led by John A. Boockvar, MD, Vice Chairman of Neurosurgery and Director of the Brain Tumor Center,  is designed specifically for newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients with a mutated cell protein called EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor), which fuels tumor growth. Although glioblastoma is incurable, the new therapy has the potential to impede tumor growth, as well as extend life expectancy.

The first patient, a 51-year-old woman from Brooklyn, NY was diagnosed with this extremely invasive form of brain cancer after experiencing debilitating headaches. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor in September 2016 and will now be receiving the standard treatment of chemotherapy and radiation. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, as part of the trial, the chemo drug Cetuximab will be administered in a concentrated dose directly to the tumor via its feeding arteries. In this way, a much higher dose of the anti-cancer medication can be safely delivered primarily to the tumor, sparing the rest of the body from the adverse effects of chemotherapy.

Cetuximab, a revolutionary drug that is one of the newer “targeted therapies,” works by blocking the activity of EGFR. In healthy cells, EGFR is responsible for cell growth and division. When there is an excess of these receptors due to a mutation – as is often the case with cancer - they stimulate tumor growth. Cetuximab targets and binds with the receptors to inhibit growth. It is also a radiation sensitizer, meaning it enhances the effectiveness of radiation treatment by making cancer cells more susceptible to death than surrounding healthy cells.

Though FDA approved to treat head, neck and colorectal cancers, Cetuximab has been used in the past for glioblastoma but was only marginally successful due to its inability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, a network of blood vessels which block foreign substances from entering the brain. The goal of this new trial is to overcome this obstacle by opening up the barrier and administering the drug intra-arterially so it travels directly to the tumor. The medication will be administered in three doses, each three months apart.

“With this unique trial, we are pushing the boundaries of targeted biotherapy to achieve what was previously unfeasible with this particular type of tumor,” said Dr. Boockvar, who is a world expert on blood-brain barrier disruption to improve the delivery of therapeutics to the brain. “Our goal is to determine whether this treatment can inhibit tumor growth, thereby improving patients’ quality of life and extending life expectancy.” 

For more information about this trial click here or contact Tamika Wong at 212-434-4386.

About Lenox Hill Neurosurgery
The Department of Neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital treats complex conditions of the brain, nervous system and spine. Through research and clinical trials, the department is on the cutting edge of innovative surgical techniques and non-surgical treatment options that are safer and more effective. With internationally known neurosurgeons, state-of-the-art procedures and techniques, and innovative research, Lenox Hill Neurosurgery is on the forefront of care for neurological illnesses and disorders.

About Lenox Hill Hospital
Lenox Hill Hospital, a member of Northwell Health, is a 652-bed, fully accredited, acute care hospital located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with a national reputation for outstanding patient care and innovative medical and surgical treatments. US News & World Report has ranked the hospital among the nation’s top 50 in Cardiology and Heart Surgery and among the top 10 hospitals in the state of New York with a total of 11 “high performing” designations for its clinical performance in Cancer, Diabetes & Endocrinology, Ear, Nose & Throat, Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology and Urology. For more information, go to www.lenoxhillhospital.org. 

Department of Neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital

The neurosurgery experts at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City, are recognized leaders in the treatment of brain, spine and nervous system disorders. With a commitment to research and development, our surgeons are continually on the cutting edge of science.