finding a treatment for terminally ill patients

The combination of two immunotherapy drugs helped kill tumors in end-stage brain and throat cancer patients, study finds.

It is a historic essay that raises many hopes. Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London, UK, found that the combination of two immunotherapy drugs could reduce the size of tumors in cancer patients of the terminally ill brain and throat.

Fewer side effects than chemotherapy

Better yet, the drug cocktail completely wiped out cancer in a 77-year-old man, reports an article in the Guardian (in English). His prognosis was yet to be life-threatening in 2017. About eight weeks after the start of treatment, analyzes revealed that the tumor in his throat had been eradicated.

In addition to increasing the chances of patients’ long-term survival, immunotherapy treatment has far fewer side effects than chemotherapy such as nausea, pain, and loss of appetite.

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In this phase 3 trial, data from 1000 brain and throat cancer patients were analyzed. They received a mixture of two immunotherapy drugs, nivolumab and ipilimumab. Thanks to this, their immune system was able to eliminate the cancer cells.

Hope for other forms of cancer

While the results are not statistically significant, they show that the combination immunotherapy had a particularly high success rate in a group of patients whose tumors had high levels of an immune marker called PD-L1.

These patients lived an average of three months longer than those who used chemotherapy. The median overall survival for these patients was 17.6 months, the highest mean ever reported in this group of patients.

The combination of the two immunotherapy drugs could prove to be an effective new weapon against several other forms of advanced cancer, experts believe. Results from other combination drug trials have already suggested similar benefits for patients with end-stage kidney, skin and bowel cancer. New studies should confirm these results.

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