Immunotherapy Benefits Relapsed Stem Cell Transplant Recipients

Immunotherapy Benefits Relapsed Stem Cell Transplant Recipients

For many patients with advanced blood cancers, a stem-cell transplant can drive the disease into remission. However, about one-third of these patients experience a relapse and face a very poor prognosis.

But a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that a new treatment approach, using repeated doses of an immunotherapy drug, can restore a complete remission for some in this predicament. This strategy could potentially prevent such relapses in the future.

An immune checkpoint-blocking drug approved for metastatic melanoma, ipilimumab, was given to patients with relapsed in an effort to revive the tumor-fighting powers of the donors’ transplanted immune systems. A weakening of the transplanted over time is believed to allow the cancers to recur.

The patients received varying doses of ipilimumab repeatedly for up to one year. Ipilimumab blocks an immune checkpoint, CTLA4 that helps evade the immune defenses.

“We believe the donor immune are present but can’t recognize the tumor cells because of inhibitory signals that disguise them,” said Matthew Davids, MD MMSc, a member of the Division of Hematologic Malignancies at Dana-Farber and first author of the study. “By blocking the checkpoint, you allow the donor cells to see the cancer cells.” Ipilumumab has been used primarily in treating advanced melanoma, but in the new study, it proved effective for blood cancers in the post-transplant setting.

A total of 28 patients with relapsed leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and myelodysplastic tumors were enrolled in the multicenter phase 1, investigator-initiated trial.

Among the 22 patients who were treated with the highest dose of ipilimumab, five had a complete response, meaning the cancer was undetectable, and two patients had a partial response, with the tumors shrinking. Six others, who did not qualify as having responses, nevertheless had a decrease in their tumor burden. Altogether, ipilimumab therapy reduced cancer in 59 percent of the relapsed patients… Read more>>

Source: Medical Xpress

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