Advanced bladder cancer immunotherapy works in trial

27 Nov 2014

Scientists have developed a breakthrough new treatment for advanced bladder cancer, a type which has not seen major treatment advances in the last 30 years. The scientists used an antibody which blocks a protein, helping the patient's immune system.

More specifically, these scientists (from Queen Mary University of London's Barts Cancer Institute) examined an antibody (MPDL3280A) which blocks a protein (PD-L1) thought to help cancer cells evade immune detection.

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Phase 1 trial with 68 patients

In a phase one, multi-center international clinical trial, 68 patients with advanced bladder cancer (who had failed all other standard treatments such as chemotherapy) received MPDL3280A, a cancer immunotherapy medicine being developed by Roche. In addition, patients were all tested for the protein PD-L1 and around 30 were identified as having so-called "PD-L1 positive" tumors.

After six weeks of treatment, 43% of PD-L1-positive patients found their tumor had shrunk. This rose to 52% after 12 weeks of follow up. In two of these patients (7%) radiological imaging found no evidence of the cancer at all following the treatment. Among PD-L1 negative patients, 11% responded positively to treatment too.

Patients who had a positive response to treatment found the benefits were prolonged, and safety results were also encouraging, with fatigue and loss of appetite most commonly reported as side effects.

US FDA: "Breakthrough therapy"

The early results of this trial are so promising, the MPDL3280A antibody drug has been given breakthrough therapy designation status by the U.S. FDA.

Dr Tom Powles, Lead Author and Consultant Medical Oncologist, Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, comments: “This study is a hugely exciting step forward in the search for alternative advanced bladder cancer treatment. For decades chemotherapy has been the only option, with a poor outcome and many patients too ill to cope with it. Not only has this investigational drug had a striking response rate, we can target this therapy for patients by screening specific protein PD-L1.

We now need larger trials to confirm our findings, and as this drug has been given breakthrough designation status by the FDA, we hope to fast track this process so we can begin to give hope to the thousands of people affected by advanced bladder cancer each year.”

 

Source: Queen Mary University of London

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