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Promising cancer drug combination may shrink tumours by at least a third


01/06/2015

An international study on 945 patients has found that treatment with Ipilimumab and Nivolumab stopped the cancer from advancing for nearly a year in 58% of cases.

Melanoma, which is the most serious form of skin cancer, is the sixth most common cancer in the UK, killing more than 2000 people in Britain each year.

Cancer is a corrupted version of healthy tissue and takes advantages of ‘brakes’ (mechanisms built into the immune system to stop it from attacking your bodies healthy tissues when fighting off infection) in your immune system to avoid detection and assault. Both Ipilimumab and Nivolumab take these brakes off.

The results of using both drugs simultaneously lead to tumours shrinking by at least a third in 58% of patients. Tumours were stable or shrunk for an average of 11.5 months.

Dr James Larkin who was one of the UK’s lead investigators stated that “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...this is a treatment modality that I think is found to have a big future for the treatment of cancer.”

Although this type of immunotherapy seems promising, side effects such as fatigue, rashes or diarrhoea have also been observed. Combining these treatments also increases the likelihood of potentially quite severe side effects.

Although developing treatment of this kind is still in its infancy stage, AHPN sees this as a potentially groundbreaking development. The African and Caribbean community are still disproportionately affected by certain types of cancer and experience poorer health outcomes compared to the general population. Any treatment that could positively affect the health outcomes of at-risk groups is warmly welcomed. However as previously stated, much more research needs to be carried out before treatment of this kind is an option for patients. We strongly urge Africans of all ages to be vigilant and aware of their risks of developing cancer. AHPN will continue to campaign for greater cancer awareness projects specifically targeted towards the African and Caribbean community.