Melanoma Patient Tumor Free in T-Cell Clone Study
Immune Therapy for Late-Stage Melanoma: No More Cancer in 1 of 11 Patients
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Melanoma Treatment 'Renaissance'
That's not the end of the story. Researchers are also combining their adoptive immunotherapy regimens with other types of immune therapies.
One of these treatments, Yervoy, was recently approved by the FDA. Yervoy is a man-made antibody that attacks melanoma tumors.
By combining adoptive immunotherapy with Yervoy, the researchers hope to deliver a potent one-two punch to late-stage melanoma, no matter how extensively the cancer has spread through the body.
For example, only about 16% of patients respond to Yervoy treatment alone. But when Butler's team gave Yervoy to patients who had already received adoptive immunotherapy, they had more success: Three of five patients had partial tumor remission and two others had stable disease.
"Among investigators, we agree almost certainly that immune therapy is going to work when we combine different agents," says Butler, soon to become an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.
Yee says that although adoptive immunotherapy studies began with melanoma patients, the treatment should work for other types of cancer.
"We are starting to look at ovarian cancer and sarcoma," Yee says.
While adoptive immunotherapy remains on the drawing board, Yee and Butler encourage patients to enroll in clinical trials.
"There are more options for melanoma now than ever before," Yee says. "But if patients volunteer for reasonable clinical trials, we think patients can move science forward faster. We are grateful to the patients who are brave enough to explore this new frontier. This is almost like a renaissance period for immunotherapy."
Yee's study appears in the March 5 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Butler's study appeared in the April 27, 2011, issue of Science Translational Medicine.