Could These Two Drugs Be The ‘Cure’ for Cancer?

Could These Two Drugs Be The ‘Cure’ for Cancer?

Is immunotherapy the answer we’ve been waiting for? Scientists are amazed at results that a combination of drugs has with various types of cancer.

In October 2015, a combination of targeted cancer drugs, nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy), has been approved in a trial involving melanoma patients. The combination was one of the few that made the cut, but also the only one that had startling results on participants. In 58% of people who were given this particular combination of drugs, a 3-year survival rate has been noted, which is an unprecedented success.

Unlike chemotherapy, which destroys both healthy and sick cells, nivolumab and ipilimumab stimulate body’s immune system cells to attack and eradicate cancer. But what’s even more fascinating about these immunotherapy drugs is that they continue working even after the treatment is finished.

The great strides these two drugs made in the treatment of advanced melanoma have encouraged oncologists to further examine the potency of immunotherapy with other types of cancer, and the findings are looking more than promising. The latest success of nivolumab and ipilimumab that’s got doctors feeling optimistic is with metastatic colorectal cancer and renal cell carcinoma.

Although any type of advancement with any type of cancer is considered splendid news, the efficacy of the drug combo is particularly significant for kidney cancer (RLL). This devastating disease is usually diagnosed once it’s already too late, due the lack of symptoms. Not only that, but chemotherapy doesn’t work on this particular type of cancer. The other methods available for treatment, such as radiotherapy or tyrosine-kinase inhibitor drugs, simply weren’t enough to efficiently treat renal cell carcinoma.

However, it seems that immunotherapy might not only be a form of treatment but a cure, as well. Granted, when talking about a cure for any kind of cancer, one must tread lightly, and it’s the same with nivolumab and ipilimumab targeted cancer therapy. The results of the study are the following: out of 425 patients in the trial, 42% experienced significant tumor shrinkage, 37% had reduced risk of death within two years, and, most astonishingly, 10% of the patients had their tumor vanish entirely- they became cancer-free because of the immunotherapy.

The drugs are already licensed and approved for use in the treatment of melanoma, so, hopefully, it’s a matter of time when they become available to people suffering from metastatic CRC and RLL. And, considering the encouraging results immunotherapy has, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if more and more researchers start looking into effects of these drugs on all forms of cancer.

Photo credit: fusebulb/Shutterstock

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