Exciting new drug breakthrough in bladder cancer
Last Updated on December 2, 2014 by Joseph Gut – thasso
November 27, 2014 – A drug which makes a wide range of cancers more vulnerable to the body’s immune system is “exciting” and may mark a new era, say doctors. The drug MPDL3280A strips cancer cells of the “camouflage” they use to evade attack by the immune system. In a most detailed study, published in Nature, some patients completely recovered from terminal bladder cancer.
Generally, the immune system is in delicate balance with some chemicals in the body encouraging a strong vigorous response, while others try to dampen it down. Tumours can hijack this system to hide from the immune system. One trick which tumours use is a protein called PD-L1 which is normally used to prevent autoimmune diseases.
Dr Tom Powles, an oncologist at the Barts Cancer Institute and part of the research team, said “There have been no new drugs for bladder cancer for 30 years. The tumours have developed a camouflage layer, PD-L1, and by removing the camouflage the tumour becomes identifiable. A subgroup of patients seems to do exceptionally well.”
The drug has been given “breakthrough therapy” status in the US and could be used widely by patients there at the end of 2015, if a larger trial shows the same results. Much larger randomised clinical trials would be needed in order for the experimental therapy to be used in Europe.
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