A new cancer tumor treatment has been discovered that can wipe out the tumors in terminally ill patients. The discovery was made by scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London.
Scientists discovered that a combination of immune-boosting compounds trigger patients’ immune systems to kill their own cancer cells and prompted a positive trend in survival.
The combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab medications, a blend of immune-boosting therapies led to a reduction in the size of tumors in terminally ill head and neck patients. In some of the patients, doctors found no sign of the ailment as the cancer was gone.
It also showed fewer side effects compared with extreme chemotherapy, which is the standard treatment offered to many patients with advanced cancer.
The Institute of Cancer Research said the results from the phase 3 trial, involving almost 1,000 dying head and neck cancer patients, were early and not statistically significant but were still “clinically meaningful”, with some patients living months or years longer and suffering fewer side effects.
A 77-year-old patient who was expected to die four years ago had his tumor completely dry up after joining the study. He is now cancer-free and spent last week on a cruise with his wife.
Prof Kristian Helin, the ICR chief executive, said “These are promising results. Immunotherapies are kinder, smarter treatments that can bring significant benefits to patients.”
Patients whose tumors had high levels of an immune marker called PD-L1, had higher success rate with the therapy during the trial, as they had the highest survival rates ever for first line therapy trial of relapsed or metastatic head and neck cancer.
Some of these patients lived an average of three months longer than those having chemotherapy. The median overall survival for these patients was 17.6 months, the highest average ever reported in this group of patients.
Researchers said they hoped future findings from the CheckMate 651 trial, funded by Bristol Myers Squibb, will show further benefits of the therapy in patients with advanced head and neck cancers.
“Despite the lack of statistical significance, these results are clinically meaningful,” said Prof Kevin Harrington, professor of biological cancer therapies at the ICR and consultant clinical oncologist at the Royal Marsden, who led the CheckMate 651 trial. “We will need to do a longer follow-up to see whether we can demonstrate a survival benefit across all patients in the trial.”
Experts have described this new cancer tumor treatment as a huge relief for cancer patients across the globe.