A new immunotherapy drug, known as Nivolumab, has been presented as a ‘game changer’ at the European Cancer Congress.
It is designed to treat all types of cancer, particularly of the head and neck, which usually has very low survival rates. Studies have already demonstrated its potential to increase life expectancy by as much as 107% and with fewer side effects than chemotherapy treatment!
Details of the study
350 cancer patients participated in a trial study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 36% of those who were treated with Nivolumab were alive after 12 months, compared to only 17% of those who were treated with chemotherapy.
Nivolumab was then combined with other drugs, such as ipilimumab, which showed its potential to shrink tumors in advanced kidney cancer patients by 40% compared to only 5% with chemotherapy. 1 in 10 patients was found to be cancer-free after being treated with Nivolumab, with minimal side effects experienced.
For patients diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) and who had tested positive for tumors, the results were even more significant. They survived for 9.1 months, compared to 4.4 months for those receiving chemotherapy, even though this group of patients is not usually expected to live for more than 6 months.
Immunotherapy harnesses the power of the immune system by interrupting the signals from cancer cells that try to pose as healthy tissue. This helps the immune system to correctly identify them as life-threatening, which causes them to be destroyed.
Professor Kevin Harrington of the Institute of Cancer Research and the lead author of the study said: “This trial found that it can greatly extend life among a group of patients who have no existing treatment options, without worsening quality of life.
Once it has relapsed or spread, head and neck cancer is extremely difficult to treat. So it’s great news that these results indicate we now have a new treatment that can significantly extend life, and I’m keen to see it enter the clinic as soon as possible.”
The chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, Professor Paul Workman, believes that Nivolumab is a game-changing immunotherapy drug that has the potential to impact all current forms of cancer treatment. “We hope that regulators can work with the manufacturer to avoid delays in getting this drug to patients who have no effective treatment options left to them,” he said.
When will it become available?
So far, Nivolumab has only been approved to treat various types of skin cancer in combination with ipilimumab, but it is already one of the fastest drugs to ever be approved for NHS use.
According to the department of health in the UK, 12000 Britons are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year and an average of 12 people die from it each day. 10 000 new cases of head and neck cancer and 3100 cases of HPV-related cancer are diagnosed each year, which means that there is an urgency to get this revolutionary drug approved and available to the market.
There is currently no therapy that improves the survival for patients with head and neck cancers.