Ever since chemotherapy, treatments for the fight against cancer haven’t been evolving much, but a new drug that activates the immune system to react and destroy cancer cells and tumors is said to represent a new treatment era in the field.
According to the new research, immunotherapy, the new approach in fighting cancer, is even more powerful than the traditional chemotherapy agent in overcoming advanced forms of skin and lung cancer.
Immunotherapy is not just a lot more effective at doing its job, but it is also less harmful to the patient’s health while tricking the body’s own defense mechanism to kill the deadly cells.
Two separate clinical trials have been conducted on two types of advanced cancers. In both cases, the experimental drug shrunk and annihilated the tumors in patients whose diagnoses left them with only a few months to live. Fortunately, the patients are now alive and well, free from any cancer.
The trials were rather extensive, enlisting 945 patients with melanoma – a destructive type of skin cancer – and 260 patients with suffering from lung cancer. Administering the immune checkpoint inhibitor nivolumab to the patients in the latter category proved to increase lifespan with an average of 3.2 months compared to patients who were on chemotherapy.
The best results among the advanced melanoma patients were visible when researchers combined nivolumab with ipilimumab, another checkpoint inhibitor; participants presented a significantly longer period of progression-free survival.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given its seal of approval for this treatment, which is now available for melanoma patients who cannot be treated by surgery or for those whose response to any other drugs is cancelled by the extensive spread of the cancer to other organs.
The melanoma trial was conducted by Dr. Jedd Wolchok from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Chicago, who said that even from the preliminary work it was clear that combining these two immunotherapy drugs will lead to better outcomes in patients.
Reporting such promising results on progression-free survival has led the team and the medical community to realize they are witnessing the way immunotherapy is changing the life expectancy of advanced melanoma patients.
Immunotherapy has been tested against other types of cancers, as well, and it also proved to be efficiently fighting bladder, kidney head and neck cancers. With such promising results, the new immunotherapy drugs have become a new ray of hope for cancer patients.
Image Source: Cancer Research