SCIENTISTS have invented a “promising” new treatment that destroys cancerous tumours in terminally ill head and neck cancer patients.
Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London combined nivolumab and ipilimumab medications to trick patients’ immune systems into killing their own cancer cells.
The experimental study was carried out on 1,000 dying head and neck cancer patients, but researchers say the cocktail of drugs led to a reduction in the size of tumours in terminally ill patients and in some saw cases the cancer vanished altogether.
Researchers said they hoped future findings from the CheckMate 651 trial, funded by Bristol Myers Squibb, will have similar benefits for terminally ill kidney, skin and bowel cancer patients.
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.
The results from the phase 3 trial 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 said. “Immunotherapies are kinder, smarter treatments that can bring significant benefits to patients.”