Advanced cervical cancer patients: hope in targeted immunotherapy

2 Jun 2014

A new type of personalized immunotherapy ("adoptive T cell therapy") showed striking results in a small phase 2 study for women with advanced cervical cancer.

In the study, two patients with widespread metastases had complete remissions after a single treatment with the HPV- targeted T cells, and have been cancer free for nearly a year or longer.

Lead study author: principle proven, may have further implications for cervical cancer patients

“This proof-of-principle study shows that adoptive transfer of HPV-targeted T cells can cause complete remission of metastatic cervical cancer and that this remission can be long-lasting,” said lead study author Christian Hinrichs, MD, an assistant clinical investigator at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD.

“One implication of the study is that cellular therapy might have application to a broader range of tumor types than previously recognized. This treatment is still considered experimental and is associated with significant side effects. We also need to explore why this therapy worked so well in certain women, and not in others.”

Limited options for women with metastatic cervical cancer currently available

Women with metastatic cervical cancer – caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) – have limited treatment options.

The median survival with the two standard first-line therapies, chemotherapy and a combination of chemotherapy and bevacizumab, is 13 and 17 months respectively.

No second-line treatments that improve survival are available. HPV-targeted adoptive T cell therapy essentially augments the natural immune response to HPV in the tumor.

Details of the therapeutic approach in the trial

To develop the therapy, HPV-targeted T cells (immune cells that specifically attack tumor cells harbouring HPV proteins) are grown from a patient’s tumor in the laboratory.

Those cells are subsequently infused back into the patient to fight the cancer. This is the first time adoptive T cell therapy has been tested in cervical cancer; it has previously shown promise in melanoma, leukemia, and sarcoma.

In the study, 9 patients received adoptive T cell therapy, and 3 responded to the treatment.

One patient had a partial response, with a 39% reduction in tumor volume, and two patients had complete remissions.

Those two patients had widespread metastases, and the disease had progressed despite prior therapy. At the time of analysis, those patients remained in remission for 11 and 18 months after treatment.

The treatment was associated with serious side effects, the most common being low blood counts, infections, and metabolic disorders.

Researchers planning to expand this study to enroll additional patients

Researchers are planning to expand this study to enroll additional patients. The same study is also exploring adoptive T cell therapy for treatment of other HPV-related cancers, such as throat cancer and anal cancer.

Along with screening and preventative vaccines, better treatments are needed to reduce cervical cancer deaths in the future.


Source: eCancer News

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