A Revolutionary Cancer Treatment That’ll Save Many Lives Hailed As ‘Biggest Breakthrough Since Chemotherapy’

A unique cancer treatment that teaches the body to attack tumours will salvage the life of millions of patients, researchers claim.
Experts think it could be the biggest step forward since chemotherapy and in the next five years will turn chemotherapy obsolete.
The cancer treatment helps cure some of the deadliest types of the disease such as lung and skin cancer.

In the trials it has eradicated tumours in patients who were expected to survive for only a few months and they are now leading normal lives.
Called immunotherapy, it works by training the immune system to attack cancerous cells.
It has also proved to be effective against kidney, bladder, and head and neck cancers, research from a number of key trials presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago shows.
These are some of the most aggressive types which are very tough to treat and, together, claim the lives of 54,000 Britons every year.
In one British trial, patients with advanced skin cancer overcame their illness and are now back at work. Doctors predict they’ll live until old age.
Some may never need treatment again, others just require top-up sessions every few weeks or months.

Vicky Brown, 61, a former college teacher was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2006 which returned and spread to 
her breasts and lungs. Doctors told her that she would live for just a few more months.
She was among the patients who took part in the clinical trials at the Royal Marsden which began that August. In a few weeks the tumours had vanished. Although it returned again, it was again eradicated by immunotherapy. It has come back a third time and doctors plan to use the same technique.
Mrs Brown, from Cardiff, said: ‘It felt like a miracle drug. It has given me at least two years of life to enjoy – and hopefully many more.’
Professor Peter Johnson, director of medical oncology at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘The evidence suggests we are at the beginning of a whole new era for cancer treatment. Not for every type of cancer, but for some of the ones we have struggled with the most.
‘We are hoping that in many cases these effects will be maintained in the long term, possibly leading to cures for some.’
Professor Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Centre in the US, opined immunotherapy would turn chemotherapy obsolete within the next five years.
‘I think we are seeing a paradigm shift in the way oncology is being treated,’ he said. ‘You can see a response as quickly as a couple of weeks. Some patients have amazing survival.’
Roger Perlmutter, president of research at the drugs firm Merck, which makes one of the main types of immunotherapy treatments, said: ‘Immune manipulation may turn out to be an even more important intervention than chemotherapy was – maybe the most important ever.’
Although our immune system can fight various infections and cancer, certain tumours have the ability to develop protective shields, meaning that the body’s immune system, chemotherapy and other drugs are all ineffective.

Immunotherapy is different — it breaks down these shields and trains our body how to attack the tumours.

Treatments are given in a drip every few weeks and per patient the cost is around £100,000 a year.
In another trial 950 British patients with advanced skin cancer, were given immunotherapy —- results showed that in 60% of the patients the tumours had either shrunk or were brought under control.
Dr James Larkin, a consultant at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, who is overseeing it, said it was a ‘game changer’.
‘We have to be cautious about using the word cure but we’ve got patients who are basically free of melanoma (skin cancer) now, they’re leading normal lives,’ he said.
‘By giving these drugs together you are effectively taking two brakes off the immune system rather than one so the immune system is able to recognise tumours it wasn’t previously recognising and react to that and destroy them.
‘For immunotherapies, we’ve never seen tumour shrinkage rates over 50% so that’s very significant to see.
‘This is a treatment modality that I think is going to have a big future for the cancer treatment.’
Some trials however have showed that the treatment was effective in only 25-50% because it depends on the characteristics of their tumour.
Nonetheless, a skin cancer trial showed that combining two types of immunotherapy treatment proved effective in many more patients. So while one type was effective for 15% of patients, two types combined worked for 60%.
As per experts regardless of the types of cancer, immunotherapy will be effective in 50% of patients.

The treatment is presently available for some NHS patients with skin cancer and the researchers contend its use should be widened for other cancers as soon as possible.
The common side-effects of immunotherapy are rashes, sickness and tiredness. They’re less severe then chemotherapy.

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