An Early Immune Therapy Trial for Melanoma

Immune therapies are slowly making their way into clinical trials: in recent work, researchers "harvested immune cells from nine patients. They souped up the cells in their lab - in effect giving them the ability to remember cancer cells - multiplied them in number, and infused them back into the patients from whom they been taken. This technique, called adoptive t-cell therapy, primes the immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells throughout the body. Ten weeks after starting the therapy, seven of the nine patients had more of the specially trained cells than they had started with. The disease in four of the patients had become stable - neither advancing nor retreating. In one patient, the cancer disappeared completely; two years later, it has still not returned. ... The work is not yet ready for commercialization. Laboratory methods for boosting immune cells need to be perfected and made more efficient, and more early clinical trials are needed. ... Five of the [patients] went on to take ipilimumab, a human monoclonal antibody ... With the addition of ipilimumab, [tumors] shrank in three of the five patients and stopped growing in the other two, a response far better than that shown in previous trials of the drug. [This suggests] immunotherapy may help drugs work better."



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