You might say Brad Silver is used to being exceptional. As a teenager, he was an All-American swimmer, ranked 16th in the nation. He attended the University of Southern California on a water polo scholarship. By his junior year, he was lifeguarding in Huntington Beach, CA, and would go on to become a prominent swimming teacher and water polo coach.
When the 44-year-old former star athlete started getting migraines, he knew something was wrong. After seeing a neurologist, Brad learned he had glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a rare brain cancer with a very poor prognosis. An MRI detected a golf-ball-sized tumor in his left lateral lobe.
Doctors initially said his tumor was inoperable and estimated he had two months to live. Brad would be lucky to see the birth of his son—his wife was 7 months pregnant at the time. Not satisfied with that prognosis, Brad sought out other options. Through friends and relatives, he eventually found his way to Linda Liau, M.D., Ph.D., a skilled neurosurgeon at UCLA medical center.
Dr. Liau was conducting a clinical trial of a new immunotherapy designed for patients like Brad. Developed first at UCLA and then later licensed and marketed by Northwest Biotherapeutics as DCVax®-L, the immunotherapy is a vaccine made up of a patient’s own dendritic cells (DC) treated with proteins from the patient’s tumor. The tumor proteins provide antigens that “teach” the DCs to recognize the tumor cells. The educated dendritic cells are then injected back into the patient where they stimulate an immune response against the cancer.
Brad had surgery to remove the tumor and received the vaccine treatment in 2003 as part of a clinical trial. Today, he’s still coaching swimming, giving kayak tours, and skateboarding to doctors’ visits.