Results from a recent study, which involved treating advanced pancreatic cancer patients with immunotherapy drug IMM-101, revealed extended survival without significant side effects.On average, the metastatic pancreatic cancer (that has spread to other parts of the body)patients who received the immunotherapy treatment survived 6.7 months compared to 5.6 months for patients who had chemotherapy alone. While this doesn’t on the face of it seem a large improvement, it is significant for pancreatic cancer patients who survive only 4 to 6 months on average from diagnosis.
The clinical trial, led by Angus Dalgleish, professor of oncology at St George’s, University of London, involved 110 patients. While small, this study showed that an immunotherapy drug could be added to conventional chemotherapy without additional side effects and, while the median survival benefit was modest, some patients in the trial lived for more than a year and one died after nearly three years. The benefits appeared to be restricted to those who had metastatic pancreatic cancer as those with locally advanced disease appeared to do better without the immunotherapy drug. Larger trials are planned for IMM-101 in patients only with metastatic disease.
Studies have revealed that Immunotherapy, which targets the body’s immune system to fight cancer, has been successful in treating many cancers. Up until now, we’ve not yet seen this happen for pancreatic cancer which has proven difficult to treat with either conventional chemotherapy and/or novel immunotherapy. Some trials of immunotherapy (which targets the body’s immune system to fight the cancer) have failed and, it is believed one of the reasons for this is that pancreatic cancer tumours are cunning in the way they are able to manipulate the immune system to help their own progression.
While more studies are needed, it now looks like there could be real hope that we can find an effective immunotherapy agent for pancreatic cancer – ultimately unleashing a new weapon against the disease, which is very much needed.