New immunotherapy drugs on the market have shown tremendous benefits in battling cancer, but a potentially serious side effect has come to light recently. Some of these drugs, especially when used in combination, may cause heart damage.
Putting the Immune System in Overdrive
In November 2016 the New England Journal of Medicine published a report from a team of experts led by Dr. Javid Moslehi of Vanderbilt University. It involved two melanoma patients who died two weeks after their initial doses of Opdivo and Yervoy, manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Opdivo and Yervoy are part of the class of drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors that boost the immune system’s ability to fight cancer cells. In some rare cases, it appears that the immune system also begins attacking the heart and other muscles.
Patient safety records at Bristol-Myers revealed that 18 patients out of 20,594 people receiving one or both drugs had experienced heart inflammation (for a rate of 0.09 percent). The rate increased for patients using both drugs, but it was still less than one percent.
Doctors are Cautious but Optimistic
According to Dr. Jeffrey Sosman of Chicago’s Northwestern University, who treated both patients in the report, overstimulation of the immune system was a known possibility. Many doctors believe drug combos are still the best option for effective treatment, but they are stressing that patients need to be informed of the risk and monitored closely.
Issels® Has Decades of Experience with Non-Toxic, Safe Immunotherapy for Cancer
Our clinic’s namesake, renowned cancer specialist Dr. Josef Issels, pioneered integrative methods of immunotherapy for cancer dating back to the mid-20th century. Contact us for more information about our safe non-toxic immunotherapy and cancer vaccines.