Cancer is about to get a new foe, and it's not that different from what we already have in our bodies. A new study announced at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago says that the melanoma drug Yervoy reveals that it can improve treatment for those with advanced and earlier stages of the illness.
The drug aims to allow the immune system to rebound and attack, and has been shown to help in advanced stage 4 melanoma.
In what is being viewed as significant, the drug reportedly reduced the risk of melanoma recurrence by one-quarter. The median time until the diseased return after surgery to remove cancer tumors was around two years and two months, compared with less than a year and a half for those on a placebo.
This could be a major development in how cancers are fought, especially melanoma. And researchers believe they may have begun to unlock many clues to future cancer treatments.
Also at the conference, scientists have reported that the modification of white blood cells, or T-cells, can destroy and make cancer cells disappear. The study by scientists from the National Cancer Institute is a huge finding that could dramatically change how medical professionals battle cancer.
Despite the optimism around the findings, the genetically modified T-cells only make cancer cells disappear for a limited period before they return. The concept that many scientists had believed, that cells can work to help battle non-blood cancer and tumors, has been principally answered. Now, more testing and research is needed to continue the effort to find a way to kill and end cancer.
The study was conducted with women who had cervical cancer, which is caused by a virus, the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which a woman's body trains its white blood cells to recognize. The study tested whether those same trained blood cells, if genetically modified, could work against solid tumors found in cervical cancer.
In three of those women who were given treatment, their tumors shrank noticeably, while two other women saw that the cancer that had spread to other areas disappeared entirely, but scientists warned that it is too early to tell whether the women were cured.
If true, it could be a major coup for medicine, where cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of death across the planet.
"This proof-of-principal study shows that adoptive transfer of HPV-targeted T cells can cause complete remission of metastatic cervical cancer and that this remission can be long-lasting," said lead study author Christian Hinrichs in a prepared statement at the conference.
"One implication of the study is that cellular therapy might have application to a broader range of tumor types than previously recognized. This treatment is still considered experimental and is associated with significant side effects. We also need to explore why this therapy worked so well in certain women, and not in others."
Overall, the initial reaction to the study has doctors and researchers extremely excited, with many praising the efforts of the NCI in continuing to look at new methods and efforts to battle against cancer. While they are hopeful that the potential discovery of a "cure" of some kind is positive, they remain cautious before further testing and study can be done.