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Immunotherapy Cancer Drug a Potential 'Game-Changer'

11/10/2016

Immunotherapy Cancer Drug a Potential 'Game-Changer'The European Cancer Congress has heard that an immunotherapy drug is a potential "game-changer" for cancer patients; especially those suffering with head and neck cancer.

In one study of head and neck cancer, more patients taking immunotherapy drug nivolumab survived for longer compared with counterparts who were treated with chemotherapy.

Another study found that when combined with another drug, nivolumab reduced the size of tumours in advanced kidney cancer patients.

The findings of the studies are welcome news in the battle against head and neck cancer, which historically has a very poor survival rate.

In a trial of more than 350 patients, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 36% of patients treated with nivolumab were still alive after one year, compared to 17% of chemotherapy patients.

The immunotherapy patients also experienced far fewer side effects.

However, the benefits of nivolumab were even more pronounced for patients whose tumours had tested positive for HPV (human papillomavirus). These individuals survived for 9.1 months on average, compared to 4.4 months for patients treated with chemotherapy.

Professor Kevin Harrington of the Institute of Cancer Research and consultant at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, who led the head and neck cancer trial, said immunotherapy drug nivolumab could be a real "game changer" for patients with advanced head and neck cancer.

"This trial found that it can greatly extend life among a group of patients who have no existing treatment options, without worsening quality of life," he said.
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