Scientists in Doug Mahoney's lab at the University of Calgary in Canada have recently discovered a new method for cancer curing using already existing immunotherapy drugs. The new treatment is by using two cancer treatment therapies which are targeted on different parts of the immune system.
"What we found is a combination of cancer therapies that complement each other in helping the immune system clear the cancer," says Mahoney, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Cumming School of Medicine and member of the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer and Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institutes. "Our results suggest that we've been looking at these cancer drugs the wrong way -- as tumor-targeting drugs -- instead of what we now feel is their most important biological role: as immune stimulating therapy," added Mahoney.
Cancer treatment usually becomes ineffective when the cancer cells get adapted to the body's immune system and start to controls them. The immune cells are modified by the cancerous cells which prevent it from attacking the tumour cells, enabling them to multiply. Moreover, single therapies aiming at one part of the immune system have been effective only in a small percentage of patients.
The new treatment is through the combination of two therapies: During the first stage, a human-made-virus, which weakens the tumour- protecting-immune system, is injected into the patient. During the second stage, a Chemotherapy drug is an injection, which would stop the tumour cells from reprogramming the immune system.
The treatment is expected to cure breasts cancer and pediatric muscle cancer. The researches done on animal models gave 20-60 percent positive results. The researchers have also carried the tests with a third complementary immunology drug which made 80-100 percent cancer curing results.
"Neither drug was developed as an immunotherapy. For nearly two decades they have been studied for their ability to directly kill cancer cells. In viewing these drugs through the lens of immunotherapy, it will impact the way we study them and try to figure out how to make them work better." Says Dr.Mahoney. "From a clinical perspective, it changes the way we will try to translate these drugs."
Mahoney says that the impact of this study on cancer patients will be known in next five years. Mahoney's lab is one of the three labs in the world which is researching on the immunology combination. The other two labs are to start their clinical trials based on similar results.