A clinical trial will examine whether a new compound that targets and kills tumors with a simple injection even when they have spread throughout the body is as effective in humans as it has proven to be in mice.
A Stanford University study found that injecting two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors in mice not only eliminates all traces of the original cancer in the animals but also triggers a massive bodywide reaction which destroys distant and untreated cancer cells.
The success of the treatment which according to the Stanford scientists worked ‘startlingly well in laboratory mice’ for many different types of cancers, including those that arise spontaneously, means that Ron Levy, professor of oncology and lead author of the study is now planning to recruit 15 lymphoma patients to try the compound in a clinical trial.
Levy and his team said in their peer-reviewed research that 87 out of 90 mice were cured of cancer after just one shot, and the rest after a second injection. The study was also successful in mice that had breast, colon and melanoma tumors.
The researchers, who believe that the injection is cost-effective and unlikely to cause adverse side effects often seen with bodywide immune stimulation, hope to see results as encouraging as those seen in animal models.
“We think that this particular combination [of two immune boosters: a short stretch of DNA called CpG oligonucleotide and an activating receptor against the immune cell protein called OX40] will be very effective in patients,” said Levy, who’s well-known in the oncology world for pioneering research that led to the development of cancer blockbuster Rituxan, a widely-used form of chemotherapy.
The study also found that the injection, by stimulating the immune cells within the tumor itself as oppose to infiltrating the immune system in its entirety or customizing a patient’s immune cells, could work for many different types of cancer.
“I don’t think there’s a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat,” Levy said, “as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system.”
The ultimate test, of course, will be to see if such approach works in people. If that proves successful, several years down the track the treatment could end one of the world’s most severe diseases that kills more people than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined and one that’s become the world’s single leading cause of death.
The research was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.