British researchers have conducted a ground-breaking trial of a new cancer drug that has shown promise, with many patients experiencing remission for extended periods.
The experimental research, by the team at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, UK, focused on blood cancers like myeloma.
The results showed the majority of participants responding positively to treatment and people going into remission for months and years.
“A raft of new immunotherapy drugs, which are so experimental they do not yet have a name, mean some patients, such as those with myeloma, are seeing their cancer drop to undetectable levels,” Dr Emma Searle, consultant haematologist at the Christie, was quoted as saying to PA Media, the national news agency for the UK.
“These drugs are a huge breakthrough in this type of cancer, allowing patients without standard treatment options to achieve remission, in many cases for months or years,” she added.
The drugs, which enable the immune system to see and attack the myeloma “are incredibly impressive” and will “absolutely” change the face of treatment for blood cancer, Dr Searle said.
When used alone, positive response is seen in “over two-thirds of patients who have no standard treatment options left”.
These achieve a remission lasting one to two years in most patients. And when used in combination, the researchers saw positive responses in “over 90 per cent of patients… and the effect on life expectancy will be even longer”.
Blood cancer can be hard to control and medics often find that patients are very sick because their entire immune system is affected.
Patients with myeloma used to survive for three to five years, though the latest data suggests half of patients are still alive after 10 years.
The trust is currently running around 30 clinical trials for blood cancer, with five specifically for myeloma, a disease originating from plasma cells in the bone marrow.
Many of the patients involved have limited or no other treatment options available, making the results more accurate.