Immune System Boosting Drug to Work With Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Nivolumab PD1 inhibitor drug

Nivolumab PD1 inhibitor drug

A number of new drugs have shown the ability to boost the immune system to help it fight cancer. Some of the drugs simply help the immune system detect and kill cancer cells. They do this by disabling the mechanisms cancer cells use to remain hidden.

One such drug is Nivolumab. There is a protein called programmed cell death 1 (PD-1), that helps the immune system understand which cells should die. Another molecule can attach itself to PD-1 to form PD-L1, which tells the immune system to not attack a cell. This prevents the immune system from going overboard and killing too many cells. The problem is the fact that cancer cells are smart enough to product their own PD-L1 protein and avoid detection by the immune system. The drug stops cancer cells from creating PD-L proteins, which helps the immune system notice and attack the cancerous cells.

Trials have seen some great results with Nivolumab, particularly in the treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other lymphatic system cancers. The drugs are especially useful for shrinking the size of tumors, as the immune system starts to recognize the cancerous cells and pull them away from the tumor mass. Researchers expect these kinds of drugs to be particularly effective at beating cancers affecting the blood and bone marrow.

A drug called pembrolizumab is another (PD-1) receptor inhibitor, showing promising results. A small study showed that the drug shrank tumors in 66% of the sample group.

These results should be looked at with some caution though, because they are phase one trial results. The research has only used small groups of test subjects so far.

According to Cancer.gov, there are 185,793 people living with Hodgkin Lymphoma in the United States. The five year survival rate is 85.3% (based on 2004-2010 figures).

There are some serious side effects with drugs that inhibit PD-1. 22% of the people involved in the nivolumab trial had a serious side effect. That can include inflammation of internal organs like the colon, lung and pancreas.

If the trials continue to go well, we will see these drugs in the market within a couple of years.

Exciting New Lung Cancer Drugs

Immunotherapy Lung Cancer Treatment

Immunotherapy Lung Cancer Treatment

Researchers have revealed some new drug treatments which are capable of completely clearing tumors for people with advanced stage lung cancer.

Lung cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of the disease and once it has metastasized to other parts of the body the prognosis for the patient is usually very grim and they usually only have months to live. These new immunotherapy drugs are capable of not only attacking tumors within the lungs but following the cancer to other sites that it has metastasized throughout the body.

One patient who had lung cancer that metastasized through to his brain, bones and adrenal glans saw complete remission, which astonished and excited many researchers.

Lung cancer is still one of the biggest killers in the world with many baby boomers who were smoking earlier in their lives finding themselves afflicted with it. Lung cancer kills more people than breast or bowel cancer, the other two prevalent forms of the disease.

The results of the most recent drug trial will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, in a few days time.

One of the drugs that has shown incredible results is called nivolumab. In the trials, at least 129 (24% of the total patients) who had advanced lung cancer have survived for two or more years since starting nivolumab. For a disease that usually kills within months once it has advanced, that is an astonishing result.

Researchers said some of the patients had extremely advanced cancer that would normally kill them within a couple of months, but they are still alive because of the treatment.
One of the researchers, Dr Mick Peake of Glenfield Hospital says: “By the time it’s spread that far, you don’t expect patients to last more than a couple of months. But in a recent scan, his doctor could not find any evidence of residual disease.”

Survival rates with the optimum dose are even higher, with 45% still alive after two years. To get such large percentages surviving an aggressive form of cancer for so long is exciting for researchers. The sheer number of positive cases is also unusual, as it is such a massive and widespread improvement.

These new types of “immunotherapy” drugs are also called anti-PD1s or anti-PDL1s, and work by teaching the immune system to see tumors as something to be attacked. Normally cancer cells cloak themselves from the immune system, so unlike an infection the immune system will ignore them.

Another similar drug called MK3475 has also been showing incredible results and according to researchers they could conceivably be a large component of the the cure for cancer. At the very least, with refinement they could allow cancer patients to live for many more years than they currently do.

Dr Julie Brahmer of John Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Baltimore has helped lead the US nivolumab trials. Dr Brahmer suggests that while it is too early to call the treatments a cure for cancer, the results are astonishing with tumors shrinking to almost nothing and people with aggressive cancers living for years.

There is also some suggestion that the immune system learns how to treat cancerous tumors in the future because it continues to attack them after the drugs have stopped.

The researchers will continue to develop the immunotherapy drugs and research how they can interact with other new drugs and common treatments to make them more effective. There may be even some possibility of combining the effectiveness of these drugs with other that utilize viruses to further mark the tumors as foreign bodies that should be attacked.