Wednesday December 19, 2018

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
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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)

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New Drug to Give Hopes to Bone Marrow Cancer Patients

It reduced the risk of progression or death by more than 50 per cent in both groups

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Cancer
Cancer Ribbon. Pixabay

A therapeutic drug has been found to improve outcomes and survival rates for patients with a serious type of bone marrow cancer.

In a clinical trial by researchers at Newcastle University in Britain, patients with newly diagnosed myeloma were treated with a drug called lenalidomide.

The results, published in the journal The Lancet Oncology, showed an improvement for those who received lenalidomide drug, compared to those not receiving it.

“This is a major breakthrough as it shows that the long-term use of lenalidomide significantly improves the time myeloma patients stay in remission after initial therapy,” said Professor Graham Jackson from the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at Newcastle.

Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells and it can affect several areas of the body, such as the spine, skull, pelvis and ribs. Current treatment usually involves chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant.

cancer
New drug offers hope for bone marrow cancer patients. Pixabay

“It is a huge step and, importantly, identifies that for younger patients lenalidomide improves their overall survival for this difficult-to-treat bone marrow cancer,” Jackson said.

“Our research highlights that lenalidomide should be considered for newly diagnosed patients following stem-cell transplantation,” he added.

As part of the study, a total of 1,137 newly diagnosed patients were randomly assigned to lenalidomide maintenance therapy and 834 patients to observation – this was after they completed their initial treatment.

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The results show that lenalidomide can prolong the average remission time by more than two years in younger patients and by well over a year in older, less fit patients.

It reduced the risk of progression or death by more than 50 per cent in both groups. (IANS)