Researchers meeting at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago are hailing immunotherapy — the prevention or treatment of disease with substances which stimulate the immune response, or simply put: drugs which employ the body’s own immune system to fight disease — as a powerful new weapon in the fight against cancer.
A combination of two drugs, ipilimumab and nivolumab, helped allow the immune systems of terminally ill melanoma patients stop the advance of the deadly skin cancer for nearly a year in 58 percent of the cases examined in an international trail, CNN reported. This was in comparison with 19 percent of cases which were treated with ipilimumab alone.
The trial examined 945 patients afflicted with advanced melanoma which were treated with the combination of drugs ipilimumab and nivolumab. The researchers behind the study not only found that the cancer stopped advancing in some patients treated with the immunotherapy drug combo, but they also saw tumors actually shrinking in size.
Professor Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at the Yale Cancer Center in the United States, was quoted by The Guardian as having said that the breakthrough treatment, which employs the body’s own immune system to attack cancerous cells, has the potential to replace chemotherapy as the standard in cancer treatment within five years and that the “potential for long-term survival, effective cure, is definitely there.”
I think we are seeing a paradigm shift in the way oncology is being treated (…) The potential for long-term survival, effective cure, is definitely there.
Last year, cancer drugs accounted for $100 billion worth of the money spent on medications around the world.
Dr. James Larkin, a consultant at the Royal Marsden hospital, told the BBC that the combination of these two drugs effectively takes “two brakes off the immune system rather than one, so the immune system is able to recognize tumors it wasn’t previously recognizing and react to that and destroy them.” He also noted that tumor shrinkage rates over 50 percent are “very significant to see” when it comes to immunotherapies.
In another study presented at the conference, researchers found nivolumab to be useful in treating a common form of lung cancer known as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), as researchers saw a 27 percent reduction in the risk of death in NSCLC patients; this in comparison to patients who received an older drug called docetaxel.
In yet another study presented at the meeting, researchers found nivolumab also boosts the survival rates of patients with an NSCLC subset known as squamous cell NSCLC, according to a report on the National Institutes of Health’s MedlinePlus.
The findings of the studies are being presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference and published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
In an unrelated study, researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia published a study which found a nearly 25 percent reduction in skin cancer risk in those who ingested a single vitamin B3 pill just two-times a day.