Cancer patients have been left free of the disease after being treated with a new drug which harnesses the power of their own immune cells.
Four of 38 patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have seen “complete regressions” following treatment, while five others saw reductions of 50 per cent in their tumours.
The drug, which could prove cheaper than other therapies that try to achieve the same effect with cells, works by activating the body’s own defences to attack the cancer.
The results have been described as an “exciting” and “significant” development in the use of immunotherapy, the process of using the body’s own immune system to fight disease.
While the trials were only carried out on patients with the blood cancer, it is hoped the methods can be adapated to tackle other cancers.
The disease claims the lives of more than 150,000 people in the UK every year and more than one million people are suffering from cancer at any one time.
Cancer patients have seen their tumours blasted into submission by a new drug which harnesses the power of their own immune cells.
The ‘serial killer’ treatment completely eliminated some tumours and shrunk others resistant to existing therapies.
Further successful trials could lead to blinatumomab being on the market in less than five years.
The tests were carried out on patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but it is hoped the methods can be adapted to tackle other cancers.
The results have been described as an ‘exciting’ development in the use of immunotherapy, the process of using the body’s own immune system to fight disease.
The drug treats non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a cancer of the immune system – by glueing cancer-killing white blood cells called cytotoxic T cells to the tumour.
Once there, they release a poison that destroys the cancer.
The problem with using a shotgun to kill a housefly is that even if you get the pest, you’ll likely do a lot of damage to your home in the process. Hence the value of the more surgical flyswatter.
Cancer researchers have long faced a similar situation in chemotherapy: how to get the most medication into the cells of a tumor without “spillover” of the medication adversely affecting the healthy cells in a patient’s body.
Now researchers at Stanford University have addressed that problem using single-walled carbon nanotubes as delivery vehicles. The new method has enabled the researchers to get a higher proportion of a given dose of medication into the tumor cells than is possible with the “free” drug—that is, the one not bound to nanotubes—thus reducing the amount of medication that they need to inject into a subject to achieve the desired therapeutic effect.
“That means you will also have less drug reaching the normal tissue,” said Hongjie Dai, professor of chemistry and senior author of a paper, which will be published in the Aug. 15 issue of Cancer Research. So not only is the medication more effective against the tumor, ounce for ounce, but it greatly reduces the side effects of the medication.