Immunotherapy boosts the body's natural defenses to fight off
cancer. The therapy has been used to help treat several cancers, such as
melanoma and lung cancer. However, little research exists on combining
immunotherapy with chemotherapy.
Now, University of Missouri
School of Medicine researchers have developed a new treatment that
combines chemotherapy and immunotherapy to significantly slow tumor
growth in mice.
‘A combined chemo-immunotherapeutic approach can slow liver tumor growth in mice more effectively than either individual treatment.’
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common form of liver cancer, but
treatment options are limited and many patients are diagnosed in late
stages when the disease can't be treated. The researchers believe that with more research, the
newly developed strategy could be translated to benefit patients with the disease.
"The current drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
to treat hepatocellular carcinoma only increases the average survival of
patients by about three months," said Kevin Staveley-O'Carroll, chair of the MU School of Medicine's Hugh E. Stephenson Jr.,
Department of Surgery and director of Ellis Fischel Cancer Center.
"While any extension of life is valuable, our research team is
developing a new therapeutic strategy that might extend and improve the
quality of life for these patients."
During the study, one group of mice was treated with the
chemotherapy agent sunitinib and another group was treated with an
immunotherapy antibody known as anti-PD-1. Over a period of four weeks,
tumors in mice treated with sunitinib grew 25 times larger.
mice treated with immunotherapy grew at a slower rate and were 15 times
larger. However, a third group of mice treated with a combination of
chemotherapy and immunotherapy experienced even slower tumor growth at a
size that was only 11 times larger.
"Our results show that a combined chemo-immunotherapeutic approach
can slow tumor growth in mice more effectively than either individual
treatment," said Guangfu Li, assistant professor in the
MU Department of Surgery. "This innovative combination promotes an
anti-tumor immune response and better suppresses growth of the cancer.
Our findings support the need for a clinical trial to test whether this
could become a cost-effective treatment that could help improve the
lives of patients with liver cancer."