Tag Archives: Cancer Research Advancement

New Immunotherapy Drug Combination Fails to Stop Cancer’s Progression

New Immunotherapy Drug Combination Fails to Stop Cancer's Progression
New Immunotherapy Drug Combination Fails to Stop Cancer’s Progression

Scientists have embraced immuno oncology research as an avenue for more effective cancer treatments. Unfortunately, the field took a temporary hit recently when Incyte pulled the plug on its latest immunotherapy drug trial.

Arming the Body’s Immune System

Incyte had high hopes for epacadostat, which works as an IDO inhibitor. IDO is an enzyme found in the body that prevents T cells in the immune system from attacking cancer cells.

In the trial, epacadostat was paired with Keytruda, a phenomenally successful immunotherapy drug from Merck. Keytruda is a checkpoint inhibitor that helps T cells recognize cancer cells, which often evade detection.

It was hoped that epacadostat would boost the effectiveness of Keytruda when taken alone. But not only did epacadostat fail to stop the progression of cancer, it had no positive effect on overall survival rates.

Is There Still Hope for Epacadostat?

While the original trial failed against melanoma, Incyte is hoping to conduct further tests with epacadostat in treating other forms of cancer. As explained by Dr. Jason Luke, an oncologist at the University of Chicago, the patient sample may have been too broad.

According to Dr. Luke, immunotherapy benefits patients with T cell-inflamed tumors. The key is to test epacadostat on patients who have a natural immune response, which can be determined via RNA-based sequencing.

Yale University oncologist Dr. Roy Herbst says the setback will not affect the enthusiasm for immunotherapy. He emphasizes that these cancer treatments are not a one-size-fits-all solution.

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Protein Biomarker Found for Liver Cancer That May Allow for Early Treatment

Protein Biomarker Found for Liver Cancer That May Allow for Early Treatment
Protein Biomarker Found for Liver Cancer That May Allow for Early Treatment

While some cancer rates have dropped, cases of liver cancer have actually tripled since the 1980s, with only 20 percent of patients surviving more than five years after diagnosis. Scientists are hoping to fight this trend with the discovery of a new protein biomarker that can lead to earlier cancer immunotherapy.

Dire Prognosis for Liver Cancer

The grim mortality rate for liver cancer is largely due to the fact that it’s usually diagnosed in late stages, by which point the liver has already sustained too much damage. A study recently published in the journal Nature describes findings that may enable earlier diagnosis.

Using Tumor Suppressors for More Accurate Diagnosis

Anti-cancer proteins known as tumor suppressors have the ability to check the rapid cell growth. Problems arise when the tumor suppressors in cancer cells fail to do their job.

A team at the University of Basel in Switzerland went in search of more effective tumor suppressors by testing a mouse model of liver cancer. The researchers examined more than 4,000 individual proteins in the diseased tissue and compared them to those in healthy tissue.

One protein called histidine phosphatase (LHPP) was found in healthy tissue but not in the tumor cells. Similar results were found when the team focused on LHPP in humans with liver cancer. Scientists are hopeful that LHPP can serve as a biomarker, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Cancer Immunotherapy for Late-Stage and Therapy-Resistant Tumors

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Highlighting a DNA-Based Lymphoma Treatment

Highlighting a DNA-Based Lymphoma Treatment
Highlighting a DNA-Based Lymphoma Treatment

One of the benefits of cancer immunotherapy is that it can offer options for patients when other treatments have failed. Doctors are having success with a new DNA-based treatment for certain forms of lymphoma.

CAR T-cell Therapy and Lymphoma

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (or CAR T-cell therapy) may sound complicated, but the basic principle is simple. CAR T-cell therapy, like most types of cancer immunotherapy, works by boosting the ability of a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.

With this procedure, T-cells are harvested from a patient and genetically engineered to produce surface receptors. The T-cells are then reintroduced into the patient’s system, where the receptors target a specific protein expressed by the lymphoma cells.

Dimas Padilla, a 44-year-old man from Orlando whose lymphoma had returned for a third time, was one of the 101 patients involved in a test of CAR T-cell therapy. Approximately half of the group experienced complete remission. Padilla himself has been tumor-free for 18 months.

Yescarta Wins FDA Approval

In October 2017, the FDA approved this treatment under the trade name Yescarta for use with certain types of B-cell lymphoma. This is only the second gene therapy to pass FDA approval, but at this point usage is restricted to patients who have unsuccessfully undergone at least two other forms of treatment.

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Chemicals that Attract Immune Cells May Speed Immunotherapy Response

Chemicals that Attract Immune Cells May Speed Immunotherapy Response
Chemicals that Attract Immune Cells May Speed Immunotherapy Response

It’s said that opposites attract, and scientists are hoping to use that principle to develop more effective immuno oncology treatments. Certain chemicals that are present in tumors might be used to attract cancer-fighting immune cells.

Triggering an Immune Response to Cancer Cells

In a study recently published in Cell, researchers at the Francis Krick Institute found that immune cells known as Natural Killer (NK) cells build up in tumors. These NK cells emit certain chemicals that attract special dendritic cells (cDC1), which are white blood cells that generate an immune response against tumors.

While analyzing data from more than 2,500 patients with skin, breast, lung and neck cancers, the team discovered a correlation between NK cell and cDC1 genes and cancer survival. Similar results occurred with an independent group of breast cancer patients.

Solving a Potential Roadblock

The study also revealed that prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which is produced by some cancer cells, can suppress NK cell activity, thereby limiting the cDC1 response. One solution may be to use aspirin to block PGE2 and its negative effects.

Professor Karen Vousden of Cancer Research UK acknowledged the benefits of the study in revealing more information about the interaction between cancer and the immune system. Vousden also pointed out the importance of such work for improved immuno oncology treatments.

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New Tao Brush Technique May Find More Female Pelvic Cancers Early

New Tao Brush Technique May Find More Female Pelvic Cancers Early
New Tao Brush Technique May Find More Female Pelvic Cancers Early

Ovarian and uterine cancers are often detected too late for effective treatment. Immuno oncology got a major boost recently with the development of an advanced Pap test that can provide early diagnosis.

Improving Early Detection of Female Pelvic Cancers

Researchers from McGill University and Johns Hopkins University teamed up to work on PapSEEK. This safe and minimally invasive test uses Pap samples from the uterus, cervix and blood to identify common genetic mutations in cancer DNA.

While the standard Pap test collects samples from the cervix, McGill professor Lucy Hopkins suggested that the team collect samples from the uterus as well to increase chances of detecting other types of cancer. They used a method called the Tao brush technique to improve the sensitivity of the test.

Going Beyond Traditional Testing

PapSEEK was tested on samples from more than 1,300 women from different hospital sites in different countries. Just over 600 of the samples were from patients with endometrial or ovarian cancer, while the others were healthy controls.

The researchers were able to detect 81 percent of endometrial cancers and 33 percent of ovarian cancers, with higher rates when the Tao brush technique was implemented. In addition, there were no false-positive results.

According to Gilbert, the Pap smear has reduced the number of cervical cancer deaths, but endometrial and ovarian cancers were going undetected. Gilbert believes that PapSEEK will be a valuable breakthrough, just as the original Pap test was.

Immuno Oncology for Late-Stage Cancers

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New Research: Computer Modeling and New Drugs to Deactivate Metastasized Breast Cancer in the Brain

Computer Modeling and New Drugs to Deactivate Metastasized Breast Cancer in the Brain
Computer Modeling and New Drugs to Deactivate Metastasized Breast Cancer in the Brain

Bringing a new immuno oncology drug to market is an expensive and time-consuming proposition. A team of researchers is trying to expedite the process, using computer modeling to find a drug that treats metastasized breast cancer.

Can One Drug Fight Two Types of Cancer?

Triple negative breast cancer is the most difficult form to treat. Once the cancer metastasizes to the brain, survival time is generally shorter. Scientists at Houston Methodist analyzed thousands of current drugs in search of one that could prevent metastasis.

The team’s efforts paid off when they hit on edelfosine, a drug which is FDA-approved for investigational leukemia treatment. Edelfosine has also been the subject of clinical research for primary brain tumors.

In a study to test the discovery, mice were injected with triple negative breast cancer stem cells obtained from patients. The cancer cells metastasized to the brain, but treatment with edelfosine prevented the cells from further growth.

A “Game-Changer” in Immuno Oncology

Dr. Stephen T. Wong, one of the study’s authors, referred to the concept of repurposing drug compounds to prevent metastatic brain cancer as a “game-changer.” In past research, Wong and his co-workers have discovered other drugs that are being repurposed in clinical trials.

The study’s co-author, Dr. Hong Zhao, said they hope to move edelfosine to a phase II clinical study within the next few years. In addition, scientists want to investigate use of the compound on other forms of cancer.

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