Researchers have shared that a newly discovered treatment for advanced melanoma is more effective in stopping the form of skin cancer than current therapies.
The treatment, which has been compared to the blood cancer treatment CAR-T therapy, recently completed a Phase 3 clinical trial, in which a patient’s own immune cells were used to fight their cancer.
The researchers, based out of Europe, have called their new approach TIL therapy. The process includes harvesting the cancer patient’s immune cells, which are then amplified to produce billions of themselves.
After being multiplied, the cells are then injected into the patient’s bloodstream, where they fight to kill the cancer in the body.
Dr. John Haanen led the clinical trial and works as a medical oncologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. He shared with NBC News that after removing the cells, they “expand them from a million cells to several billion cells.”
“This is what the field needs to really gain confidence about this emerging therapy. It’s potentially practice-changing,” Lam said of the results.
The trial consisted of 168 patients with metastatic melanoma. Some were given the TIL treatment, while others received ipilimumab, the current standard treatment. The groups took the drugs for almost three years.
The patients taking TIL therapy had a 50% reduction in disease progression and death compared to the group on the current standard.
But the stunning results don’t stop there. Among those in the TIL therapy group, 20% saw their tumors disappear altogether, while only 7% did on ipilimumab. The study isn’t over either, as patients will continue to be tracked.
Haanen shared that the median overall time of survival for cancer patients receiving the TIL therapy was over two years. For those on ipilimumab, the time was just over a year and a half. Haanen also noted that if a patient began going into remission, the chances it would last years were high.
“For a population that has already failed one treatment, this is very good news,” he said.
While the TIL treatment has been used in clinical trials for the past two decades, this was the first trial to compare it to an approved drug, nonetheless one that is the leading drug currently used for treatment.
The treatment is also significant, as, for the last three decades, melanoma rates have rapidly risen in the U.S.