Cancer immunotherapy tries to turn the body’s own defenses against tumors by stimulating the immune system. Paul Chapman, Sandra D’Angelo, and Jedd Wolchok, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA, report on the results of a phase 1 trial of an immunotherapeutic treatment for skin cancer. They treated 13 melanoma patients with a combination of two immunotherapeutic drugs, ipilimumab and nivolumab, which target inhibitory molecules present on the surface of T-cells, a subset of white blood cells. By blocking these molecules, T-cells may become activated and turn onto the tumor cells.
In half of the patients, the melanomas shrunk by at least 80 %. In the particular case of a female patient, a single dose of the drug combination caused a large metastatic growth under her left breast to vanish completely within three weeks, leaving nothing but a cavity in its place. Subsequent examinations showed no evidence of the tumor.
However, the scientists point out that this treatment may also bear health risks for the patients, for example, when tumor nodules located in the bowel wall are rapidly destroyed.
- Rapid Eradication of a Bulky Melanoma Mass with One Dose of Immunotherapy,
Paul B. Chapman, Sandra P. D’Angelo, Jedd D. Wolchok,
N. Engl. J. Med. 2015.