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Is this the cancer breakthrough we have been waiting for?

February 2018

man in a field

Right across the world highly skilled teams are working on finding treatments for cancer and out of all the research that is going on, occasionally something that really does seem a game changer comes to light.

That occasion has arisen with news from America’s Stanford University.  They have developed a combination of two drugs that kills the original cancer and also works across the body to destroy distant cancer cells as well.  Even better the drugs can be delivered by just a single injection into the main tumour.

Like so many medical breakthroughs at the moment, it is early days and the medical profession is being caution. But nevertheless there is a quiet excitement about this research.

The new treatment is based around the body’s own immune system. Immune cells such as T cells recognise abnormal proteins that are often present as a cancer attacks and try to suppress it. But as a cancer tumour grows, the cancer often finds way to reverse the situation and can start to suppress the effect of the T cells.

The new drugs reactivate the specific T cells so they start again to attack and destroy the cancer.  What is even more amazing is that the trials already carried out show that the new drug combination, when injected directly into a tumour, not only kills this original cancer, but it triggers a body wide reaction to destroy any other cancers, wherever they are in the body.

The man leading the study is Stanford University’s Professor of Oncology, Ronald Levy MD. He is already recognised as a pioneer in cancer immunotherapy.

The new drug is actually a combination of two agents and has already been tested on mice with startling results. In 90 mice suffering from breast, colon and melanoma cancer and with two or more c tumours, once the drug combination was administered, 87 of the 90 mice were cured of the cancer. In the three mice where the cancer reoccurred, a second injection saw the tumours disappearing. In all cases the drug had not only attacked the original tumour but sought out and destroyed the additional tumours.

Dr Levy said using the two agents together brought about the elimination of tumours all over the body.

"Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumour itself. In the mice, we saw amazing, body-wide effects, including the elimination of tumours all over the animal,” he said.

"I don't think there's a limit to the type of tumour we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system.”

Now a clinical trial is planned to test 15 patients with low grade lymphoma. If this works, then Levy hopes the treatment will play a part in treating many different cancers, including those that have spread.

Without doubt new therapies such as this one being developed by Dr Levy will at some point introduce a real breakthrough into cancer treatment.  Over 300,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the UK most years, but survival rates have climbed fast recently, with around half of sufferers surviving for 10 years or more.

New discoveries like this can only help to herald in the day when cancer treatment doesn’t just mean survival...but will actually bring in a cure.

More information on this research is available at med.stanford.edu/news/


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