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New treatment destroys head and neck cancer tumours in trial

cancer

New treatment destroys head and neck cancer tumours in trial

A new cancer treatment can wipe out tumours in terminally ill head and neck cancer patients, scientists have discovered.

In a landmark trial, a cocktail of immunotherapy medications harnessed patients’ immune systems to kill their own cancer cells and prompted “a positive trend in survival”, according to researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, and the Royal Marsden NHS foundation trust.

One patient, who was expected to die four years ago, spoke of the “amazing” moment nurses called him weeks after he joined the study to say his tumour had “completely disappeared”. The 77-year-old grandfather is now cancer-free and spent last week on a cruise with his wife.

Scientists found the combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab medications led to a reduction in the size of tumours in terminally ill head and neck cancer patients. In some, their cancer vanished altogether, with doctors stunned to find no detectable sign of disease.

Combining the two immunotherapy drugs could prove an effective new weapon against several forms of advanced cancer, experts believe. Results from other trials of the drug combination have previously suggested similar benefits for terminally ill kidney, skin and bowel cancer patients.

As well as boosting the long-term survival chances of patients, scientists said, the immunotherapy treatment also triggered far fewer side-effects compared with the often gruelling nature of “extreme” chemotherapy, which is the standard treatment offered to many patients with advanced cancer.

The results from the phase 3 trial, involving almost 1,000 dying head and neck cancer patients, were early and not statistically significant but were still “clinically meaningful”, the ICR said, with some patients living months or years longer and suffering fewer side effects.

“These are promising results,” Prof Kristian Helin, the ICR chief executive, told the Guardian. “Immunotherapies are kinder, smarter treatments that can bring significant benefits to patients.”

About 12,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with head and neck cancer every year and many will be diagnosed at advanced stages. There is an urgent need for better, kinder treatments for these patients that can keep them alive longer than the current standard of care.

When Barry Ambrose, 77, from Bury St Edmunds, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017, he was told that it had already spread to his lungs – and that hospital palliative care was his only option.

But in a turn of events that saved his life, Ambrose was offered the chance to join the new study. “When I was told about the trial … I didn’t hesitate to join – what did I have to lose? It turned out to be a lifeline.

“Although I had to make biweekly trips from Suffolk to the hospital for the treatment, I had virtually no side-effects and was able to carry on as normal doing the things I love: sailing, cycling, and spending time with my family.”

Within about eight weeks of starting the treatment, scans revealed the tumour in his throat had been eradicated.

“When the research nurses called to tell me that, after two months, the tumour in my throat had completely disappeared, it was an amazing moment,” said Ambrose. “While there was still disease in my lungs at that point, the effect was staggering.”

He later underwent chemotherapy, followed by surgery. He currently has no evidence of disease.

“The treatment I’ve received at the Royal Marsden has been second to none and I’m so fortunate they’ve continued to find treatment that works for me – they’re the gift that keeps on giving,” said Ambrose. Last week he enjoyed a cruise off the coast of the UK with his wife, Sue.

The results of the trial show the immunotherapy combination enjoyed a particularly high success rate in a group of patients whose tumours had high levels of an immune marker called PD-L1.

Survival rates in those with high levels of PD-L1 who received the immunotherapy cocktail were the highest ever reported in a firstline therapy trial of relapsed or metastatic head and neck cancer.

These patients lived an average of three months longer than those having chemotherapy. The median overall survival for these patients was 17.6 months, the highest average ever reported in this group of patients.

Researchers said they hoped future findings from the CheckMate 651 trial, funded by Bristol Myers Squibb, will show further benefits of the therapy in patients with advanced head and neck cancers.

“Despite the lack of statistical significance, these results are clinically meaningful,” said Prof Kevin Harrington, professor of biological cancer therapies at the ICR and consultant clinical oncologist at the Royal Marsden, who led the CheckMate 651 trial. “We will need to do longer follow-up to see whether we can demonstrate a survival benefit across all patients in the trial.”

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Health

AIDS Agency Chief Says 1 Out Of 100 Persons Positive In Kaduna

The Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Aids Control Agency (KADSACA), Dr Isa Baka has said a survey had revealed that one out of 100 people is positive to the AIDS disease in the state.

Baka disclosed this speaking shortly after a walk in commemoration of the World AIDS Day, on Thursday in Kaduna.

The theme of the year’s’ World AIDS Day is “Equalise to End AIDS: Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services’’.

He said the present statistics was a remarkable development against previous survey which gave 11 of every 100 people in the state.

Baka added that the AIDS prevalence in Kaduna, which is at 1.1, being a survey carried out by the state government itself, was later done at the national level, where that of Kaduna was confirmed as very accurate.

“At the national level, the prevalence of the virus (AIDS) was at 1.4 (four people out of 100 test positive), while that of Kaduna is confirmed to be 1.1, was in determination of the state government and KADSACA’s efforts to ensure minimal prevalence of the virus,” he said.

He said as part of efforts to continue reducing the prevalence of AIDS in the state, government initiated programmes across the 23 LGAs.

He said one of the UNICEF anchored programmes, which is the ‘Adolescent and Youths Living With HIV and AIDS’ programme, was present and effective in at least, 18 LGAs and 24 sites in the state.

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Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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