Immunotherapy combination could be alternative to 'Extreme' chemotherapy in some head and neck cancers - The Institute of Cancer Research, London

Health

The Institute of Cancer Research 11 October, 2021 - 07:54am

In a landmark trial, a cocktail of immunotherapy medications harnessed patients’ immune systems to kill their own cancer cells and prompted “a positive trend in survival”, according to researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, and the Royal Marsden NHS foundation trust.

One patient, who was expected to die four years ago, told the Guardian of the “amazing” moment nurses called him weeks after he joined the study to say his tumour had “completely disappeared”. The 77-year-old grandfather is now cancer-free and spent last week on a cruise with his wife.

Scientists found the combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab medications led to a reduction in the size of tumours in terminally ill head and neck cancer patients. In some, their cancer vanished altogether, with doctors stunned to find no detectable sign of disease.

As well as boosting the long-term survival chances of patients, scientists said, the immunotherapy treatment also triggered far fewer side-effects compared with the often gruelling nature of “extreme” chemotherapy, which is the standard treatment offered to many patients with advanced cancer.

The results from the phase 3 trial, involving almost 1,000 dying head and neck cancer patients, were early and not statistically significant but were still “clinically meaningful”, the ICR said, with some patients living months or years longer and suffering fewer side effects.

“These are promising results,” Prof Kristian Helin, the ICR chief executive, told the Guardian. “Immunotherapies are kinder, smarter treatments that can bring significant benefits to patients.”

About 12,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with head and neck cancer every year and many will be diagnosed at advanced stages. There is an urgent need for better, kinder treatments for these patients that can keep them alive longer than the current standard of care.

When Barry Ambrose, 77, from Bury St Edmunds, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017, he was told that it had already spread to his lungs – and that hospital palliative care was his only option.

But in a turn of events that saved his life, Ambrose was offered the chance to join the new study. “When I was told about the trial … I didn’t hesitate to join – what did I have to lose? It turned out to be a lifeline.

“Although I had to make biweekly trips from Suffolk to the hospital for the treatment, I had virtually no side-effects and was able to carry on as normal doing the things I love: sailing, cycling, and spending time with my family.”

Within about eight weeks of starting the treatment, scans revealed the tumour in his throat had been eradicated.

“When the research nurses called to tell me that, after two months, the tumour in my throat had completely disappeared, it was an amazing moment,” said Ambrose. “While there was still disease in my lungs at that point, the effect was staggering.”

He later underwent chemotherapy, followed by surgery. He currently has no evidence of disease.

“The treatment I’ve received at the Royal Marsden has been second to none and I’m so fortunate they’ve continued to find treatment that works for me – they’re the gift that keeps on giving,” said Ambrose. Last week he enjoyed a cruise off the coast of the UK with his wife, Sue.

The results of the trial show the immunotherapy combination enjoyed a particularly high success rate in a group of patients whose tumours had high levels of an immune marker called PD-L1.

Survival rates in those with high levels of PD-L1 who received the immunotherapy cocktail were the highest ever reported in a firstline therapy trial of relapsed or metastatic head and neck cancer.

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

Researchers said they hoped future findings from the CheckMate 651 trial, funded by Bristol Myers Squibb, will show further benefits of the therapy in patients with advanced head and neck cancers.

“Despite the lack of statistical significance, these results are clinically meaningful,” said Prof Kevin Harrington, professor of biological cancer therapies at the ICR and consultant clinical oncologist at the Royal Marsden, who led the CheckMate 651 trial. “We will need to do longer follow-up to see whether we can demonstrate a survival benefit across all patients in the trial.”

Read full article at The Institute of Cancer Research

Cancer breakthrough as 'amazing' new treatment destroys tumours in terminally ill

Daily Express 13 October, 2021 - 04:20am

A landmark trial found a mixture of two immunotherapy medicines harnessed patients’ immune systems to kill their own cancer cells. Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden NHS foundation trust found that the drug cocktail could shrink tumours in terminally ill head and neck patients cancer patients. In some, their cancer completely vanished, leaving doctors baffled to find no trace of disease.

Results from similar trials of the drug combinations have also given similar benefits for terminally ill kidney, skin and bowel cancer patients.

Chemotherapy, often the standard form of treatment for cancer patients who have advanced forms of the disease, is often painful and can have significant side effects.

The Phase 3 trial of the wonderdug involved almost 1,000 cancer patients.

The results were described as “clinically meaningful”, as patients lived months or years longer and suffered far fewer side effects.

Professor Kristian Helin, ICR chief executive said that these were “promising results".

He told The Guardian: “Immunotherapies are kinder, smarter treatments that can bring significant benefits to patients.”

The trial results revealed the immunotherapy combination gave a particularly high success rate in a group of patients whose tumours had high levels of an immune marker called PD-L1.

Survival rates in those with high levels of the marker who received the immunotherapy combination were the highest ever reported in a first line therapy trial of relapsed or metastatic head and neck cancer.

The patients lived an average of three months longer than those who were given chemotherapy as a treatment instead.

The average survival for these patients was 17.6 months, the highest ever average reported in this group of patients.

Researchers said they hope more findings will be unveiled in the trial, which is funded by Bristol Myers Squibb.

They are hoping to discover further benefits of the therapy in patients with advanced head and neck cancers.

Professor Kevin Harrington, professor of biological cancer therapies at the ICR, said: “Despite the lack of statistical significance, these results are clinically meaningful.

“We will need to do longer follow-up to see whether we can demonstrate a survival benefit across all patients in the trial.”

Around 12,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with head and neck cancer every year and many will be diagnosed at advanced stages.

There is an urgent requirement to develop more treatments that are less severe for patients and can prolong their life further than current treatments are able to.

These cancers are the eighth most common in the UK and account for three percent of all new cancer cases. 

New cancer treatment creates best "overall survival ever"

Open Access Government 11 October, 2021 - 11:17am

In a Phase Three trial, a new treatment appears to be working better than chemotherapy for head and neck cancer patients – creating a better chance at living longer than chemotherapy, which is infamously tough on the human body.

The immunotherapy combination, nivolumab and ipilimumab, created fewer side effects and appeared to help create a longer life expectancy.

A 77-year old man, Barry Ambrose, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017. The cancer spread to his lungs, and he was told that there was nothing left to do but prepare.

However, a second hospital gave him the option to join the trial. Throughout his two-year stint, Barry was cleared of throat cancer entirely. To be clear, he accepted the immunotherapy, then he took chemotherapy and surgery – but this was previously thought to be medically impossible.

Talking about the new cancer treatment, he said: “When the research nurses called to tell me that, after two months, the tumour in my throat had completely disappeared, it was an amazing moment. While there was still disease in my lungs at that point, the effect was staggering.

“In fact, I was doing so well on the trial I was allowed to pause it in November 2018 to go on a Caribbean cruise with my wife.”

Currently, the findings are not considered to be “statistically significant”. More work needs to be done and the research team are excited about the possibilities of their discovery.

Also, the cancer outcomes of the world are currently reeling from COVID-related disruption. Around one in seven major cancer operations did not go ahead, globally.

Professor Kevin Harrington, Professor of Biological Cancer Therapies at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Our trial shows the immunotherapy combination achieved the longest median overall survival ever seen in patients with relapsed or metastatic head and neck cancer. Despite the lack of statistical significance, these results are clinically meaningful.

“We will need to do longer follow-up to see whether we can demonstrate a survival benefit across all patients in the trial.”

It was found that patients who got the immunotherapy combination lived an average of three months longer than those who were treated with Extreme chemotherapy. The median overall survival rates for patients trying the new cancer treatment was 17.6 months, which is the highest ever reported in this group.

Immunotherapy is also a much kinder treatment option than Extreme chemotherapy, which comes along side effects such as nausea, pain, appetite loss, tiredness and breathing problems – things that significantly decrease quality of life.

Professor Kristian Helin, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Immunotherapies are kinder, smarter treatments that can bring significant benefits to patients with advanced head and neck cancer – for example, by sparing them some of the difficult side effects of chemotherapy.

“These are promising results and demonstrate how we can better select the patients who are most likely to benefit from immunotherapy treatment.”

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