New Immunotherapy Provides Help for Cancer Patients

Cutting-edge cancer research is taking place across the world every day, and one recent study has produced some promising results.

In a small research project conducted at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, scientists found high rates of remission in patients who underwent a unique chemotherapy program followed by an immune-based treatment. Though the research suggests a new way to provide help for cancer patients, particularly those facing blood cancers, it is not without its limitations.

What the study says

The study involved 32 patients diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, who had unsuccessfully tried other therapies. Each was given chemotherapy, of varying regimens, to attack and kill cancerous cells, before an immunotherapy called CAR-T was introduced. That approach involves the introduction of healthy T cells that have been genetically modified to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

The researchers found the best results when patients were given a chemotherapy regimen that incorporated two drugs: 64 percent of those patients went into remission, while only 8 percent of the patients who received chemo with one drug achieved remission.

Pros and cons

Previous research has indicated the value of immunotherapy, but this study took that finding a bit further with its high remission rates. However, there are some drawbacks.

Once the engineered T cells were re-introduced to patients, many had negative side effects. For instance, more than half experienced low blood pressure and inflammation, a few had to be admitted to the intensive care unit and others developed language problems. The study proved fatal for two of the patients, those who received the highest dose of the T cells.

While help for cancer patients through chemo and immunotherapy is a viable option, the worrying outcomes this study produce suggest the importance of ongoing research.

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