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Leading the fight against cancer

UC Irvine Health brain tumor specialist Dr. Daniela Bota
University Communications
UC Irvine neuro-oncologist Dr. Daniela Bota is using patients' own cells to attack their brain tumors.

UC Irvine's National Cancer Institute designation signifies 'best and brightest' cancer care

Typically, only 10 percent of people with a brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme survive for five years. But treatment at the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is hardly typical.

UC Irvine Health patients with this type of cancer not only receive leading-edge care at the cancer center, they also have access to a highly promising clinical trial aimed at preventing a recurrence of the disease.

UC Irvine Health neuro-oncologist Dr. Daniela Bota is leading a phase 2 clinical trial of a glioblastoma vaccine made with white blood cells and protein antigens extracted from the patient's tumor. The vaccine — made with the patient’s own activated white blood cells—is injected into the patient to help the immune system recognize and attack remaining cancer cells.

It's ingenious, and the results of studies so far suggest it significantly extends survival.

This kind of a novel study could only take place at a "comprehensive cancer center," a designation bestowed by the National Cancer Institute to recognize institutions with state-of-the-art programs in cancer treatment and research. The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only 45 such centers nationwide and the only one in Orange County.

"Faculty members who are part of NCI-designated cancer centers are among the best and brightest in the nation," says Dr. Edward L. Nelson, chief of the UC Irvine School of Medicine's Division of Hematology-Oncology. "Because the center is charged with advancing the field, you get the most cutting-edge treatments by individuals who know the most about a given tumor."

At comprehensive cancer centers, teams embracing many specialties and disciplines usher promising research into tangible advances as quickly as possible. Patients may enroll in clinical trials for new treatments not available elsewhere in the community. At the cancer center, groups called disease-oriented teams have been formed to improve the treatment of skin, colon, prostate and women's cancers.

"It's a way to facilitate interactions between the basic scientists and clinicians and to have fertile ground for new ideas to take hold," Nelson says.

For example, Dr. Robert E. Bristow, chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, offers an innovative treatment for women with advanced ovarian cancer called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). The approach represents the latest and best option for advanced ovarian cancer. It involves bathing the abdominal cavity with a heated chemotherapy drug to kill any lingering cancer cells immediately after surgery to remove the visible cancer.

"Dr. Philip Di Saia, the previous chief, established a longstanding track record of excellence in gynecological oncology here at UC Irvine," Nelson says. "Dr. Bristow is dedicated to sustaining that level of excellence and innovation."

For more information or to make an appointment with a UC Irvine Health cancer specialist, call 714-456-8000 or visit www.ucihealth.com.