Merseyside trust is national
leader in clinical trial of pioneering lung cancer treatment
MORE people from Merseyside and Cheshire
than anywhere else in the UK are taking part in a trial of a pioneering drug
that could teach their immune system to attack and kill lung cancer cells.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, which provides specialist
cancer treatment and carries out groundbreaking research, has recruited more
patients than any other UK site for the 'Checkmate' lung cancer trial.
It's a trial of a new type of treatment called immunotherapy. Unlike
chemotherapy drugs, which focus on killing cancer cells directly, immunotherapy
works by helping the body's immune system to recognise cancer and then attack it
in the same way as an infection.
As well as causing fewer side effects than chemotherapy in most people, immunotherapies seem to be extremely effective in some patients, leaving them in
remission for significantly longer than might otherwise be expected.
Although the concept has been around for a while, previous attempts at
immunotherapy were largely unsuccessful because cancer cells are normal body
cells gone 'wrong' and they can 'hide' by producing a protein
called PDL1 which deactivates the immune system.
The CheckMate trial involves a drug called nivolumab that works by blocking PDL1
so the cancer cells can't 'hide'; the immune system is then triggered to
attack them. While the CheckMate trial is using nivolumab to treat squamous cell
lung cancer, the drug has also shown good effects in patients with kidney cancer
and melanoma and is now licensed for use in all three tumour sites.
Consultant Medical Oncologist Dr Richard
Griffiths, The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre's site lead for the CheckMate trial,
said:- "It's too early to start talking about a cure for advanced cancer,
but those patients who do see benefits have a much longer remission than we
would usually expect. This final phase of the trial started in August 2015 and
we have 23 patients now taking part here at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre,
more than any other UK site and we believe the 2nd highest in the world.
Patients on the drug have nearly a 50% higher chance of being alive 12 months
later compared to standard chemotherapy. They come every 2 weeks for an infusion
that takes about an hour, instead of having chemotherapy."
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is also taking part in the IMMotion 51 clinical
trial for kidney cancer. This involves an immunotherapy drug called Atezolizumab,
which also blocks the PDL1 protein emitted by cancer cells, being used alongside
Avastin. 8 patients are currently on this trial and the results so far have been
positive. "We are moving to a new era for the treatment of some advanced cancers.
Cancer drugs have traditionally suppressed the immune system. These new
drugs stimulate the immune system to attack cancer. The hope is that they will
enable patients with advanced cancer to bring the disease under control for a
much longer time and with fewer side effects than chemotherapy." said Dr Griffiths.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust is active in the
development and trial of new cancer treatments with an extensive portfolio of
studies at any 1 time.