Research

New immunotherapy combination gives hope to cancer patients

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cancer-cellsThe researchers at a Canadian university have discovered a new immunotherapy combination that has proven to be more effective in killing cancer cells, giving hope to thousands of patients living with the disease.

The researchers at the University of Calgary used existing cancer drugs in a whole new way. “What we found is a combination of cancer therapies that complement each other in helping the immune system clear the cancer,” said Doug Mahoney, in whose lab the study was conducted.

“What we found is a combination of cancer therapies that complement each other in helping the immune system clear the cancer,” said Mahoney.

“Our results suggest that we’ve been looking at these cancer drugs the wrong way — as tumour-targeting drugs — instead of what we now feel is their most important biological role: as immune stimulating therapy,” he added.

Scientists have been working for decades to find ways to help the body’s immune system detect and attack cancerous cells, which hide from the body’s own immune system to grow uninhibited. Immunotherapy, which stregthens the body’s immune system to defend against cancer cells, has emerged as an important field in the global fight against cancer.

The team of researchers from University of Calgary combined two therapies, each targeting a different part of the immune system. The first was an injection of a man-made virus. That injection puts the “gas on” the immune system followed by a second injection of a drug being developed as a chemotherapy. That drug stops the tumour from reprogramming immune cells.

“The combination of the drugs allowed the immune cells to do what they’re supposed to. We were able to cure cancer in 20 to 60 per cent of our animal models,” said Mahoney. “It’s a very promising result against two very deadly forms of cancer: an aggressive breast cancer and a rare pediatric muscle cancer,” he added.

When the researchers added a third complementary immunotherapy, the cure rate went as high as 80 to 100 per cent.

The research results were published recently in the journal Nature Communications.

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