Immunotherapy is a special type of cancer treatment in which scientists manipulate one’s own natural defenses to combat cancer. While not as popular as the standard means for treating cancer such as chemotherapy or radiation, a new, potentially world altering drug has been discovered according to this article. This drug has been described as a wake-up drug, and people with pancreatic cancer in which the cancer spread to other parts of the body and had a low chance of survival have seen extended lives. Deemed “IMM-101,” the drug is especially different from the standard treatment of pancreatic cancer as there are currently no known side-effects to this drug, a factor that is particularly of note as most treatments for pancreatic cancer leaves the patient in a poor state.
Although the trial is considered rather small, Professor Angus Dalgleish of the oncology department at St George’s, University of London, found that out of the 110 patients, 18% of them lived for longer than a year, and only 4% of these individuals lived another five years. While this is exciting news for potential sake, this is still a low amount of people in advanced stages of pancreatic living a prolonged amount of time.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the biggest killing diseases in the United States, and treatment of the immune system normally requires a level of virulent ingrediants and struggle from the patient. IMM-101’s most unique factor is that it worked with no notable side-effects that harmed the patient, something Dalgleish claims he has never seen before. Dalgleish also notes that while this news is exciting news for the future of fighting pancreatic cancer, implementing IM-101 with typical chemotherapy with patients whose cancer has only spread locally yielding no results, but instead proved beneficial for those in which the cancer spread into other parts of the body, or metastasized.
In the study conducted by Dalgleish, 85% of the participants had a metastatic disease, and generally lived 4.4 months with standard chemotherapy. Those distributed the standard chemotherapy alongside IMM-101 typically survived a median of seven months, with exceptions living from another one to three years longer. Dalgleish described IMM-101 as an awakening drug, due to the fact it revitalizes one’s immune system that has effectively been destablilized by the pancreatic cancer cells. By bringing back the immune system, it can now find and mark the tumor in order to enhance the utility of chemotherapy for people with pancreatic cancer and not expected to live much longer.
Dalgleish also notes the IMM-101 has not only seen positive results in people with pancreatic cancer, but those with melanoma and skin cancer. He claims that those patients find a greater rate of survival and a healthier life, and even notes that some cases has subsided entirely. These results must be taken with a grain of salt however, as the results show very little increased life-span with a relatively small sample group. Dr. Justina Alford, a senior science information officer for Cancer Research UK, states that while it proved slightly effective for patients also receiving chemotherapy, the rates at which survival increased were too small to deduce any notable conclusions without more data being investigated. A similar sentiment was echoed from Kevin Harrington, a professor of biological cancer for the Institute of Cancer Research in London. He states that while it seems like a unique way to treat pancreatic cancer, the data simply isn’t quantifiable at the moment and that the technology is not there yet.
In conclusion, this discovery comes in light of a complete lack of alternatives for pancreatic cancer, which occurs when tumors form on the exocrine cells. Typically, pancreatic cancer can only be attempted to be treated when discovered in its initial stages. Generally, these treatments include chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, all of which are relatively poor choices in terms of patient health and well-being. With the discovery of a side-effectless immunotherapy drug, scientists are reinvigorated with the possibilities of this form of treatment for cancer patients everywhere.