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Man beating odds against terminal brain cancer

April 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Glioblastoma is a lethal cancer that starts in the brain and has no cure. Most patients survive about 15 months even with every form of conventional treatment. But one man says he has been fortunate to find a way to survive and now his goal is to help others do the same.

Inside a freezer at UCLA there is a brain tumor sample belonging to 40-year-old Bob Gibbs. Gibbs was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2004.

Using human tissue, researchers created an experimental vaccine designed to keep Bob's cancer cells from growing back.

"Had I not had the vaccine and went with Standard of Care I don't' believe I would be here today," said Gibbs.

"The way we're approaching it is actually taking the patient's actual tumor tissue and generating the vaccine from that," said UCLA neurosurgeon Dr. Linda Liau.

Dr. Liau says Glioblastoma affects 20,000 Americans every year. It's the same type of cancer that killed Senator Ted Kennedy.

"We can't get to every little tumor cell. That's what makes these tumors difficult to treat and that is why they tend to come back," said Dr. Liau.

Doctors say patients diagnosed with glioblastoma survive about 15 months to two years, and that's with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. With Dr. Liau's vaccine the survival rate is much longer. Forty-percent of patients survive three years and five percent survive six years.

Bob Gibbs is a seven-year survivor and he's working hard to make sure there are more patients like him. He and his wife started the group Miles for Hope. His sole goal is to raise money for research like Dr. Liau's vaccine and to spread awareness and hope.

"We think we're making a difference by promoting the vaccine, by raising awareness of the vaccine and the disease and by promoting treatments out there," said Gibbs.


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