Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital, London reported that they saw “spectacular” results in treating cancer by using immunotherapy.
While the news is great, there is a downside to it. It can work only for a few patients.
Immunotherapy has become a treatment for cancer, particularly skin and lung cancers. It takes the patient’s immune system, and it steers it to the tumor.
The study is now in its early stage trial. The team presented their findings in Chicago, where cancer doctors and scientists go to the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. They showed that this approach could work in treating prostate cancer.
“Today I’m effectively cancer-free.” Michael English
The trial had 258 men with prostate cancer getting immunotherapy. One of them is Michael English (72), who found out he had cancer in 2005. After going through radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone-based therapies, his cancer was still alive. Then, in 2016, he received the immunotherapy drug called pembrolizumab. He stated:
“We were astonished when scans showed that the tumor had become undetectable.”
Researcher Prof Johann de Bono added that:
“This is the first evidence that a subset of prostate cancer patients do spectacularly well on immunotherapy. We have several patients in the Marsden who have had a complete response. It is a new arrow in the quiver for men with lethal prostate cancer, it’s a big deal for these patients.”
Unfortunately, only 10 – 15% of the patients responded to immunotherapy, making the approach ineffective for the majority of prostate cancer patients. However, the researchers were expecting it, since immunotherapy only works for some patients. It either has a temporary effect in some or none.
The researchers from London think that patients that have heavily-mutated cancer respond better to immunotherapy. Nell Barrie (Cancer Research UK) explained their next plans:
“The next step will be to find out how to tell which men will benefit from taking this drug. This is important as although immunotherapy is exciting, it can have severe side effects.”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere