This first and ever cancer patient has told how her large, left breast tumor “dissolved away” after undergoing a new cancer therapy. The 49-year-old woman showed an astounding response to a new combination of two drugs, to treat her cancer.
Doctors at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York have hailed their patient’s recovery ‘one of the most staggering responses’, they have ever seen.
Scientists at the hospital have conducted a trial, treating patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma as they combined a standard drug already used, ipilimumab, with another, nivolumab.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ipilimumab and nivolumab separately as melanoma drugs but has not approved their combined use. The researchers’ study was aimed at testing how the two drugs worked when used in tandem.
In the study, doctors gave treatments to 142 people with metastatic melanoma (melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body) — some participants received the combination, and others received ipilimumab plus a placebo. Neither the participants nor their doctors knew who had received which treatment until the trial had ended.
Yielding a result that, the new drug combination had better results than the ipilimumab-plus-placebo treatment. Among the 72 participants who took the combination, 61% saw their cancer shrink, compared with just 11% of the 37 people in the group who took only ipilimumab.
However, the drawback of this treatment is that, the combination may pose a risk if it dissolves a tumor somewhere else in the body and leaves a hole behind.
I think that it is a huge concern. It is something to consider if you do have a patient with a tumor [invading] a vital organ,” said Dr. Sylvia Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Other than that, the medications are also pricey. Ipilimumab costs $120,000 for four treatments, and nivolumab is priced at $12,500 a month.
Still, the drug combination may offer a new and promising treatment for people with melanoma if the FDA approves it, Chapman said.
It kind of confirms an assumption that we’ve all had for many decades: that the immune system can recognize cancers and can kill large tumors if properly activated,” said lead author, Dr. Paul Chapman, an attending physician and head of the melanoma section at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.