- Some of the patients in the Institute of Cancer Research’s trial lived months or years longer and suffering fewer side effects, scientists say
A new cancer treatment is able to destroy tumours in the head and necks of patients, a trial has found.
Patients were given a mix of immunotherapy medications, which sparked their immune systems into killing their own cancer cells and prompted “a positive trend in survival”, says researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, and the Royal Marsden NHS foundation trust.
The Guardian reported the results of the phase 3 trial, which involved involved 947 terminal head and neck cancer patients, were not statistically significant but still “clinically meaningful”, according to the ICR.
Some of the patients lived months or years longer than expected and suffered fewer side effects, scientists said.
Patients were given a combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab medications, which scientists found it led to a reduction in the size of tumours in terminally-ill patients, while some saw their cancer totally eradicated.
It is believed using the drugs could boost the long-term survival chances of patients.
Scientist claim the treatment triggered far fewer side-effects, unlike “extreme” chemotherapy, which is currently given to advanced cancer sufferers.
One of the participants of the trial was Barry Ambrose, of Bury St Edmunds, who had throat cancer which had spread to his lungs.
But the 77-year-old’s throat cancer had completely disappeared after he took part in the trial for almost two years.
He later had chemotherapy followed by surgery as the cancer had spread to his lungs but he is now free of the disease.
Mr Ambrose, who said he suffered virtually no side-effects in the trial, told of the “amazing” moment nurses called him weeks after he joined the study to say his throat tumour had “completely disappeared”.
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. 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.”
Researchers believe believe combining the two immunotherapy drugs could prove an effective new weapon against several forms of advanced cancer.
Professor Kristian Helin, Chief Executive of ICR 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.”