A study published online in JAMA Oncology revealed that roughly a quarter of lung cancer patients have autoimmune conditions, making them ineligible for the new immunotherapy treatments. Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center also found that there are unpredictable risks that could affect several organs and rates of the side effects have the potential to exceed 50 percent in patients under immunotherapy regimens.
Lead researcher Dr. Saad Khan said about 20-50 million patients in the United States will not be able to receive immunotherapy treatments, as reported by United Press International. This type of regimens are designed to stimulate the body so its immune systems can attack cancer, but the treatment of people with autoimmune diseases would lead their bodies to fight off its issues more aggressively.
“While prior research has suggested that administering immune therapy to patients with autoimmune disease may be feasible, doing so carries the risk of making their disease worse, and requires careful monitoring,” said Dr. David Gerber, co-director of UTSW’s Experimental Therapeutics Program, UPI reported.
The research, in which authors applied two different algorithms to 210,509 lung cancer patients older than 65, revealed the first estimations of autoimmune conditions among patients suffering from lung cancer, epidemiologist Dr. Sandi Pruitt pointed out. He noted that the findings would have an impact on clinical practice, as well as on the design of clinical trials.
#Immunotherapy 101:What is it? How does it work? Is it right for me?#LungCancer https://t.co/ddBcKKrfxM pic.twitter.com/WREgWBLo0n
— LungCancerAmerica (@lcfamerica) May 27, 2016
More benefits could also come with more severe side effects
A separate study presented at the 2016 ASCO conference in Chicago found that combining two immunotherapy drugs resulted more effective than using a single drug treatment in patients with advanced lung cancer. More tumors could respond to combined drugs, but the side effects could be more severe.
The research team divided 216 patients 216 patients with advanced small cell lung cancer that had been given chemotherapy into three groups. One of them was just given the PD-L1-targeting drug nivolumab (Opdivo), whereas the other two groups were given a mix of nivolumab and the CTLA4-targetimg ipilimumab (Yervoy) in different doses.
The combination of drugs outperformed the single treatment in each of the two other cases. In fact, the combined therapy doubled the number of patients whose tumor stopped growing, compared to the group that received just nivolumab.
It can be extremely hard to treat small cell lung cancer when it comes back after patients have undergone chemotherapy, as Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said, the organization reported on its website.
Not sure how #immunotherapy and #chemotherapy differ? Our latest video looks at how both treatments fight cancer. pic.twitter.com/YucgDOsFqN
— Cancer Research Inst (@CancerResearch) June 1, 2016
Half of the patients who were given two immunotherapy antibodies combined survived for more than a year, Johnson said. Although such improved responses led to more severe side effects, he noted that the combination of drugs allows researchers to conduct larger trials with more patients to find out how much the mix can improve survival rates.
The same combination of drugs also appeared to be promising. Unlike the previous test, the drugs were tested as first-line therapy rather than the treatment after a relapse following chemotherapy.
Source: United Press International