A major new discovery provides tremendous hope for people suffering from cancer.
A new drug is being hailed as a possible “game-changer” in treating head and neck cancer. In a new study, scientists claim that patients who take nivolumab survived longer than those that took chemotherapy, and another study suggested that combining nivolumab with another drug caused tumors to shrink, according to a European Society for Medical Oncology statement.
That is important because advanced head and neck cancer have some of the worst survival rates of any cancer. The study is based on a trial of 350 patients, where 36 percent were treated with nivolumab — an immunotherapy drug that works by using the immune system to destroy cancer cells — were still alive after a year,, compared to 17 percent on chemotherapy.
In addition, immunotherapy provided fewer side effects than chemo.
Patients that had HPV (human papillomavirus) saw the greatest benefits. They survived 9.1 months on average with nivolumab, but just 4.4 months on chemotherapy. These patients had advanced and treatment resistant tumors, and are expected to live less than six months usually.
“Nivolumab not only prolongs life but it does so while maintaining function and reducing symptoms compared with standard of care chemotherapy,” said lead author Professor Kevin Harrington, joint head of the Division of Radiotherapy and Imaging, at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK and Consultant Clinical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
“We need to drill down into the data to understand the reasons for these findings,” he continued. “The data suggest that the superior clinical activity of nivolumab maintains patient-reported outcomes, but it is also likely that nivolumab is a kinder treatment that is associated with fewer side effects which can have a negative effect on quality of life.”