Friday November 22, 2019

Immunotherapy Becomes World’s First Therapy which Cured Breast Cancer

A "highly personalized" anti-cancer therapy

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Research technician Ashwini Balakrishnan works in the immunotherapy research lab of Dr. Stanley Riddell at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, March 28, 2017.
Research technician Ashwini Balakrishnan works in the immunotherapy research lab of Dr. Stanley Riddell at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, March 28, 2017. VOA

A woman with an aggressive form of breast cancer which defied chemotherapy and spread to other organs, was cured with an experimental treatment that triggered her immune system, researchers said Monday.

The woman has been cancer-free for two years, reported the U.S.-based team, presenting their results as “a new immunotherapy approach” for the treatment of patients with a late-stage form of the disease.

Other experts not involved in the work hailed it as “exciting”.

So-called “immunotherapy” has already been shown to work in some people with cancer of the lung, cervix, blood cells (leukaemia), skin (melanoma) and bladder.

But an immune breakthrough for bowel, breast and ovary cancer has remained elusive.

In the latest study, a team extracted immune cells called lymphocytes from the patient, tweaked them in the lab, then reinjected them.

Cancer patient
Cancer patient, flickr

The woman was 49 when she signed up for the clinical trial after several attempts at a cure through conventional treatments had failed, said the study published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine.

The cancer had spread to various parts of her body, including the liver.

A person’s immune system is designed to kill invaders, including rogue, cancerous cells. But it can fail, often because it cannot recognize cancer cells containing the patient’s own DNA.

Immunotherapy trains a patient’s own immune cells to recognize and fight cancer.

For the new study, researchers took lymphocytes from a tumor in the woman’s body and scanned them for specific types which reacted to mutant, cancerous cells.

Complete regression

These were reactivated or “switched on” in the lab and injected back, along with a so-called “immune checkpoint inhibitor” — another type of immunotherapy that has shown success in other types of cancer.

Cancer survivor
Cancer survivor, flickr

This resulted in a “highly personalized” anti-cancer therapy that yielded “complete tumor regression,” the researchers wrote.

In a comment also published by Nature Medicine, expert Laszlo Radvanyi from Canada’s Ontario Institute for Cancer Research said the woman’s response to the treatment was “unprecedented” for such advanced breast cancer.

This work showed “we are now at the cusp of a major revolution in finally realizing the elusive goal of being able to target the plethora of mutations in cancer through immunotherapy,” he wrote.

In a reaction via the Science Media Centre in London, immunotherapy professor Alan Melcher of The Institute of Cancer Research said the trial was “fascinating and exciting.”

The work “provides a major ‘proof-of-principle’ step forward, in showing how the power of the immune system can be harnessed to attack even the most difficult-to-treat cancers,” he said.

Peter Johnson, an oncology professor at the Cancer Research UK Centre, said the study confirmed the immune system can recognize some cancers, and “if this can be stimulated in the right way, even cancers that have spread to different parts of the body may be treatable.”

The technique is “highly specialized and complex”, he cautioned, and may not be suitable for many patients. (VOA)

Next Story

Beware! Velvety ‘Triple Palms’ Can be Sign of Lung Cancer

"All patients with tripe palms should be evaluated with a full diagnostic work-up for an associated malignancy, particularly lung or gastric carcinoma," wrote the researchers

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Cancer
Velvety palms constitute a rare medical condition known as 'tripe palms', due to their resemblance to the rippled appearance of the stomach lining of cows, pigs or sheep. Pixabay

In a rare medical condition, a 73-year-old Brazilian woman was diagnosed with lung cancer after she showed up at a dermatologist’s clinic with velvety ‘triple palms’.

An elderly smoker who acknowledged that she’d gone through a pack of cigarettes every day for 30 years, the woman was suffering from painful lesions on her hands.

According to Science Alert that cited a case published in a paper in The New England Journal of Medicine, she also had cough for about a year, and had lost 5 kg in the last four months alone.

“Physical examination revealed sharp demarcation of the folds in the lines of her hands in addition to a velvety appearance of palmar surfaces and ridging of the skin,” her doctors wrote in the case report.

Velvety palms constitute a rare medical condition known as ‘tripe palms’, due to their resemblance to the rippled appearance of the stomach lining of cows, pigs or sheep.

Cancer
Cancer Ribbon. Pixabay

Sometimes called acanthosis palmaris, such tripe palms fall under skin disorder.

In the case of this 73-year-old patient, a CT scan revealed irregularities in her lungs.

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A subsequent biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of adenocarcinoma, and she underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy, said the report.

“All patients with tripe palms should be evaluated with a full diagnostic work-up for an associated malignancy, particularly lung or gastric carcinoma,” wrote the researchers. (IANS)