Patients with stomach cancer may extend survival through a new antibody-based drug, a study has shown.

An experimental therapy using the antibody IMAB362, currently in its phase 2 of clinical trials with 161 patients, is showing promise of improving median survival rates by as much as 13 months.

German researchers from the Institute of Clinical Cancer Research at Nordwest Hospital used IMAB362 therapy in addition to standard chemotherapy for gastric cancers. IMAB362 functions by targeting cancer cell protein called claudin-18.2.

The antibody therapy uses mediators like soluble and cellular immune effectors to bring down the shield of cancer cells from being detected and destroyed by the body's immune system. Once that shield is taken down, the cancer is exposed and the standard treatment can act the cancer cells more efficiently.

Researchers also noted that patients with high concentrations of claudin-18.2 before receiving the new antibody treatment had longer median survival rates of almost 17 months compared to 9 months for those who are only given the standard treatment.

Lead study author Salah-Eddin Al-Batran, a medical oncologist and director at the Institute of Clinical Cancer Research said they estimated that about 50 percent of patients in advanced stages of stomach cancer can benefit from the antibody therapy.

"In addition, this unique target is not present in any healthy tissues except the lining of the stomach, thereby minimizing treatment side effects," said Al-Batran.

While the clinical trial is set to start its phase 3 study that would include a larger, representative population in 2017, many experts believe that the therapy is promising.

To date, IMAB362 is the only antibody therapy that focuses on claudin-18.2 proteins, which is also present in several other types of cancers like esophageal, pancreatic and ovarian. The researchers are also planning to start phase 2 clinical trial of IMAB362 on pancreatic cancer patients.

An earlier study conducted by the Cancer Research UK has established that combination therapy of gemcitabine and capecitabine improves survival rates of patients with pancreatic cancers.

The results of the trial were presented during the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago on June 5.

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