Researchers use immunotherapies to combat cervical cancer, melanoma

| June 3, 2014

Courtesy of AMA Wire

Several major media sources report on research presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference on immune therapies for different cancers. NBC Nightly News (6/2, story 5, 2:25, Curry) reported, “In medical news tonight a ground-breaking development in the fight against cancer. It involves one of the newest approaches, using a patient’s own immune system to attack the disease and researchers now report its worked for the first time against cervical cancer.” Dr. Hinrichs, study lead, was shown saying “The goal of it is to completely eliminate the cancer and have it never come back.” Dr. Hinrichs added, “This is building on new knowledge how the immune system works. We now have several approaches that are showing these dramatic results.”

The CBS Evening News (6/2, story 8, 0:20, Dubois) showed Dr. Hinrichs saying, “The treatment that we do completely rearranges the immune system.” He added, “The idea is to give a single treatment and have the cells wipe out the tumor the same way that they would clear an infection.”

USA Today (6/2, Weintraub) reports that the researchers used “adoptive T cell therapy,” which “helps combat the virus that causes cervical cancer.” With this therapy, physicians “harvest immune cells that are naturally fighting a patient’s cancer, expand them in the lab, and then put them back in the body – essentially enlarging the immune system’s anti-tumor army.”

On its website, NBC News (6/3) reports that Hinrichs said, “These are not genetically engineered or genetically modified T-cells,” but are instead “naturally occurring T-cells that were present in the tumor.” However, “in those who do have them, it could represent a lifelong cure, says Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer for the American Society for Clinical Oncology.” Dr. Schilsky said, “Not all patients respond, but if they do respond, their responses are very long-lasting because the immune system has a memory.” He added, “This is a huge change.”

The AP (6/3, Marchione) reports that “the cervical cancer experiment was the first time an immune therapy has worked so dramatically against a cancer caused by a virus – HPV.” During the “pilot study by the National Cancer Institute, the tumors of two out of nine women completely disappeared and those women remain cancer-free more than a year later.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News (6/3, Langreth) reports that in one study of melanoma patients, “79 percent of an initial group of 53 patients who received the experimental medicine nivolumab combined with Yervoy [ipilimumab] were still alive after two years, a better result than is seen with existing drugs for advanced melanoma.” Meanwhile, “in another study of 411 advanced melanoma patients who” received an experimental medication “called MK-3475, 62 percent were alive 18 months after starting treatment.”

AFP (6/3) reports on those studies and also reports on another study presented at the ASCO conference in which researchers found that patients given ipilimumab “saw a 25 percent reduced risk of the cancer coming back when compared to a placebo.” The research “involved 951 patients with stage III melanoma, many of whom faced a likely recurrence of cancer since it had spread to their lymph nodes.” The investigators found that “three years after treatment, the survival rate was 46.5 percent in the ipilimumab group and 34.8 percent in the placebo group.”

The Houston Chronicle (6/3) reports that physicians at the ASCO “conference reported success against lung, head and neck, bladder and kidney cancer using immunotherapy, until recently considered a lost cause but now generating great excitement.” Altogether, “more than 70 studies” were presented “this weekend and Monday about the therapy, which drew attention the last two years mostly for melanoma.”

The Wall Street Journal (6/3, Subscription Publication) reports that some of the research has led some oncologists to believe that immunotherapies could ultimately be beneficial for patients with lung, bladder, and kidney cancers, in addition to melanoma.

The New York Times (6/3, Pollack, Subscription Publication) reports, however, that “some experts note that there was initially huge excitement about so-called targeted therapies and about drugs that block the flow of blood to tumors.” Although “those approaches have made a difference, they have not been the panaceas enthusiasts envisioned, and that is likely to be the case with immunotherapy as well.” The Times adds, “‘With anything, all that glitters is not gold,’ said Dr. Richard Pazdur, who as chief of the cancer division at the F.D.A. has a unique insight into how drugs are performing.” Also covering the cervical cancer study are The Hill (6/3, Viebeck), Medscape (6/3, Nelson), and MedPage Today (6/3, Smith). Also reporting on melanoma studies are Reuters (6/3, Berkrot), HealthDay (6/3), and Medscape (6/3, Mulcahy).

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Category: Anatomic Pathology, Clinical Laboratories, Conferences, General Healthcare News, Histology, In-vivo, Medical Research, Pathology News, Publications, Reports, Science, Web/Tech

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