A new study has shown that immunotherapy drug (nivolumab) helps extend patients’ lives.

The study which was presented at the European Cancer Congress considered patients with head and neck cancer and those who took nivolumab survived longer compared with those who were treated with chemotherapy.

Kevin Harrington, a professor at the Institute of Cancer Research and consultant at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, who led the study, said nivolumab could be a real “game changer” for patients with advanced head and neck cancer.

He said “this trial found that it can greatly extend life among a group of patients who have no existing treatment options, without worsening quality of life.

“Once it has relapsed or spread, head and neck cancer is extremely difficult to treat. So it’s great news that these results indicate we now have a new treatment that can significantly extend life, and I’m keen to see it enter the clinic as soon as possible”, he explained.

Also, another study revealed that patients with advanced kidney cancer who combined nivolumab with another drug got their tumours shrunk.

According to BBC News, what immunotherapy does is harness the immune system to destroy cancer cells.

A study that had earlier been carried out which included  94 patients with advanced kidney cancer showed that the combination of immunotherapy drugs (nivolumab and ipilimumab) resulted in a significant reduction in the size of tumours in 40% of patients.

One in 10 of the patients had no sign of cancer remaining after taking the drugs, compared with 5% after-standard-therapy patients which showed tumour reduction.

These immunotherapy drugs have been described as one of the many treatments being discovered for cancer.

Paul Workman, professor and chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, said nivolumab was one of a new wave of immunotherapies that were beginning to have an impact in cancer treatment.

“We hope regulators can work with the manufacturer to avoid delays in getting this drug to patients who have no effective treatment options left to them”, he added.



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