A new study has revealed that cancer immunotherapy may lower the risk of relapse among lung cancer patients after surgery.
The study led by Prof. Johan Vansteenkiste from University Hospital Gasthuisberg in Belgium conducted a double blind, placebo-controlled trial among 182 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, which is the most common form of the disease.
After complete surgical resection of the tumour, the patients were randomly given either placebo injections or injections of MAGE-A3.
MAGE-A3 is a tumour-specific antigen, expressed in 35-50 pct of non-small-cell lung cancer, but not on normal cells.
ASCI administered over 27 months where, five given at three-week intervals followed by eight given once every three months.
"The aim is to help the body immune system to recognize the MAGE-A3 antigen and therefore eliminate the cancer cells that express MAGE-A3," said Prof. Vansteenkiste.
"In other words, it is a kind of treatment method that makes the body immune system specifically attack the lung cancer cells," he added.
They revealed that after 44 months, 69 of 182 patients had experienced a recurrence of their cancer, including 57 deaths.
The findings revealed those given the MAGE-A3 injections had longer on average before their cancer recurred, were less likely to have any recurrence, and were less likely to die.
"Surgical resection is the standard treatment for patients with early stage lung cancer, but after complete resection about 50 pct will relapse and die from their cancer," he said.
"Postoperative chemotherapy is able to improve cure rates, but is sometimes poorly tolerated by patients recovering from thoracic surgery. In addition, not all patients are fit to receive chemotherapy.
"This is why the signal from this phase II randomized study is important: the reduction in risk of postoperative cancer relapse is similar to the one obtained with postoperative chemotherapy, while the side-effects of this new strategy are minimal compared to chemotherapy," he added.
The study was presented at the 1st European Lung Cancer Conference.