Finding a cure for cancer has been probably the top priority for the medical community for more than 50 years. In that arena, the development of immuno-oncology has been a game-changer, with experts referring to it as “a whole new era” of cancer treatment.
This view was strengthened by two studies presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology. Both involved nivolumab, an immunotherapy drug that has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating metastatic melanoma in patients for whom other medications have been unsuccessful.
In one study, nivolumab was paired with ipilimumab to reduce tumor size in patients with advanced melanoma by almost 60 percent. Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. The other study demonstrated that nivolumab reduced the chances of death from lung cancer by more than 40 percent.
The new standard of cancer treatment?
Results were so positive that they encouraged experts’ view that immunotherapy drugs could eventually replace chemotherapy as standard treatment for cancer. Prof. Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center, believes that day could happen within the next five year.
Nivolumab is classified as a “checkpoint inhibitor,” meaning that it blocks the proteins that help cancer cells “hide” from the immune system. Using it in combination with other drugs gives immune cells a better chance to do their job.
Our center for immune-oncology has been successfully treating patients with individualized therapy protocols for nearly 15 years. Visit our website to hear and read testimonials in the words of our real-life cancer survivors.
Being told you have cancer is hard to hear from your doctor. Fighting it is harder. Here at Issels®, we respect how difficult it is for you and we do anything we can to help you in your battle. Sometimes that means researching new treatments that can potentially save your life.
An article in Science Mag talks about one of these new treatments. Researchers have tested new cancer drugs that can help improve your immune system. In clinical trials of these drugs on patients with melanoma or lung cancer that were given a poor prognosis, these drugs were able to improve the prognosis in many of the participants. They were useless in patients with colon cancer with the exception of one man, who, after being treated in 2007, showed no sign of his metastatic tumors for several years.
This new drug is an antibody that blocks a receptor on the immune system’s T-cells called PD-1. When tumor cells activate the PD-1 receptor, they can hide T-cells. If this “checkpoint” is blocked by a PD-1 inhibitor, the T-cells can see the tumor cells and attack them. Researchers hypothesize that melanoma and lung cancer respond so well to PD-1 inhibitors because of their multiple mutations. The mutations may alter genes, causing small stretches of abnormal proteins. The immune system tends to see these as unfamiliar proteins, or antigens. The more of these “neoantigens” there are, the greater an attack from T-cells unleashed from a PD-1 inhibitor.
If you have been uncertain about the future of immuno-oncology, you have merely to look at the sudden increase in research studies and events related to the topic happening around the world. At Issels® Integrated Immuno-Oncology, we remain dedicated to keeping up-to-date with current advances.
This year marks the first conference ever dedicated to discussion about the future of immunotherapy as a survival option for cancer treatment. “The Inaugural International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science into Survival,” sponsored by the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy, the American Association for Cancer Research, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology and the Cancer Research Institute, will be hosted at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York City in the United States from September 16th to the 19th. It is being referred to as a point of reference, educational and networking meeting for everyone who is currently working in this area, including patient advocates, doctors, scientists, drug developers and regulators. According to the AACR, the conference is planned as a biennial event. The 2017 event will be hosted somewhere in Europe.
Leaders in cancer immunotherapy science and treatments will be giving over 60 talks about a wide range of topics, including biomarkers, checkpoint blockade inhibitors, combination therapies, genomic methods for identifying tumor antigens, tumor microenvironments, the microbiome, T-cell responsiveness and related therapies.
At Issels®, we are excited that immunotherapy is finally receiving the recognition it deserves as a non-toxic and personalized cancer treatment option. For more information about how this event will help improve your current treatments, or to schedule an appointment for an immunotherapy treatment plan evaluation at one of our Issels® centers, contact us today!
No single cure-all cancer immunotherapy drug exists at this time. Instead, modern medicine offers several FDA approved single and combination drug options.
What do they do to the body?
As outlined in the Vox article “Is Cancer Immunotherapy Really a Miracle Cure?,” these treatments prompt a person’s immune system to destroy cancer cells when it will not do so on its own. Immuno-oncology research began as early as the 1890s when Dr. William Coley discovered he could shrink tumors in some patients by injecting bacteria directly into their tumors.
Immuno-oncology was mostly ignored for over a century because of more evident successes in surgical, radiation and chemo therapies. Yet, many researchers now believe it could be the key to curing cancers. Modern technologies have helped us better understand at the cellular level how cancer forms and spreads and how the body responds to different treatments.
Are there risks?
Every treatment available poses risks. Like chemotherapy, immunotherapy drugs have toxic side effects and can even cause adverse immune system reactions. Currently, these immunotherapy drugs do benefit many patients.
Their immune systems destroy targeted cancer cells and tumors.
They receive remission benefits for months longer than other treatments.
Some receive benefits for years longer.
Researchers are only beginning to understand how they can use modified viruses to prompt the immune system to work harder and more efficiently. As the article outlines, their biggest challenge is determining who will benefit and how to create new treatments for everyone else.
Encouraging news from successful immuno-oncology treatments for cancer: a recent study shows that a particular combination may notably prolong life for patients with melanoma. British researchers are studying the effects of two drugs — ipilimumab and nivolumab — to see if one or both drugs works best for patients with inoperable melanoma or metastatic melanoma.
As immuno-oncology drugs, both medications work by delivering antibodies that train the immune system to kill cancer cells.
Melanoma Immunotherapy Results
The results so far show that nivolumab alone may deliver better outcomes than ipilimumab alone. When taken together, patients have survived even longer. For individual patients, the results can vary depending on the presence of a certain protein, PD1.
A breakdown of the outcomes for patients with advanced and difficult melanoma:
Patients taking only ipilimumab have survived 2.9 months
Patients taking only nivolumab have survived 6.9 months
Patients taking the combination have survived 11.5 months
The blind, controlled study is still ongoing, so results may evolve
Nivolumab specifically targets cancer cells by attaching to the PD1 protein. For patients whose tumors carry PD1, treatment with nivolumab alone may be as effective as the combo. If the PD1 protein is not present, however, the combo has been performing better than ipilimumab alone.
While ipilimumab has been approved in the U.S. and European Union, the newer drug nivolumab has only been approved for trials. The promising results of the drug for PD1-positive patients, and the possibility that it creates a “one-two punch” with other immunotherapy treatments, gives hope that patients with melanoma will soon have access to the drug.
Visit Issels® for more information about immuno-oncology and our currently available treatments.
Immunotherapy for cancer that costs more than $1 million per patient per year? Issels® knows how frustrating coming to terms with the affordability of cancer treatment can be, and you’re not the only one taking notice. At the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2015 meeting, Dr. Leonard Saltz, MD of NYC’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center brought the stark reality of this issue to light.
Among the concerns addressed by Dr. Saltz was the need to establish cost controls for treatment, as there is an upper limit to how much society can afford to pay. Prices are not being based on the value of drugs, but what (the seller believes) the market will bear.
This year, the cost of a family insurance plan plus out-of-pocket expenses equates to approximately 50% the average U.S. household income. Continue this trend, and by 2028 it will be 100%.
How bad is it?
Saltz identified multiple therapies whose prices were in excess, limiting accessibility. The latest: pembrolizumab (Keytruda):
2mg/kg (2014 standard dose) – $14,500 per month.
10mg/kg (2015 proposed clinical trial dose) – $83,000 per month.
The astronomical out-of-pocket?
Saltz calculated for the average, 165 pound American patient, the drug would cost $1,009,944 per year for 26 doses. With a 20% Medicare copay, that’s a whopping $201,988 out-of-pocket for a single year of treatment! This stark reality is hoped to lead to a drastic changes in melanoma treatment, as many patients cannot afford medical insurance, least of all these copays and therapies.
Has playing the lotto become your backup plan for affording cancer treatment? Don’t give up hope. Contact Issels® and discover an array of cutting-edge immunotherapy options today!