Promising Hope For Lung Cancer Patients

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In another study, the combination of Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo and Yervoy worked better than chemo alone for delaying the time until cancer worsened in advanced lung cancer patients whose tumors have many gene flaws, as almost half do, AP reported.

Two promising new studies suggest that combining immune therapy drugs with chemotherapy may improve survival. However, the SU2C-CRI Dream Team researchers hypothesized that leaving the tumor in place during initial treatment with immunotherapy would turn it into an "auto-vaccine" resulting in the activation of tumor-specific T cells that would then circulate through the body and find distant sites of micrometastases, thereby preventing relapse post-surgery which can happen to at least one-half of lung cancer patients who undergo surgery.

Results of the study are expected to change how 70,000 patients are treated each year in the United States whose lung cancer has already spread by the time it is found, according to AP. In addition, the patients' immune systems also likely destroyed straggler tumor cells still circulating in the blood system, which can later take hold and lead to recurrence and metastasis.

The research could lead to new treatment regimens.

. In the study, Merck's Keytruda, given with standard chemotherapy, cut in half the risk of dying or having the cancer worsen, compared to chemo alone after almost one year.

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The findings represent another step forward for immunotherapy, which has been making steady gains against a number of different cancers. He was not involved in the pembrolizumab study.

Rates of serious side effects were similar, but twice as many in the Keytruda group dropped out because of them.

Recalling a patient with advanced lung cancer whose tumor disappeared and has not grown back after finishing treatment 24 months ago, Gomez said, "I'm now becoming much more optimistic that if we can really find a way to ideal this treatment and to really figure out who are the patients who do the best and why that we may be able to do something like get rid of lung cancer for at least some patients". SU2C is now funding four Cancer Interception teams focusing on lung and pancreatic cancer. "Chemotherapy has limitations. Immunotherapy has the ability to cure". The immunotherapy drugs did not help people with fewer tumor gene flaws. The estimated proportion of patients in the combination therapy group who were alive and whose disease had not gotten worse at a year was about 34 percent, about double the proportion for the chemo-only group. Recurrence-free survival at 18 months was 73 percent, and the median recurrence-free survival had not been reached at the time of data analysis.

How much it ultimately will extend life isn't known - more than half in the Keytruda group are still alive; median survival was just over 11 months for the others. "We are hopeful that this breakthrough, and the follow-up clinical studies already underway, will translate into a new standard of care".

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