Lung cancer patients may soon have a new treatment option. An experimental Roche drug, called MPDL3280A, successfully reduced tumors in 23 percent of test subjects.
The drug was tested on patients with non-small cell lung cancer, or LSCLC. A total of 53 patients were given the drug. Researchers noted that 23 percent of those treated responded favorably.
The drug was specifically effective in reducing tumors in current and former smokers. As reported by Medical News Today, 26% of those with favorable results were smokers.
The experimental drug is a form of immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s immune system.
Cancer cells are often detected and eliminated by the immune system. However, if the cells avoid detection they continue to grow and spread. MPDL3280A prevents the cells from avoiding detection.
The lung cancer patients were given the drug for up to 18 months. Researchers found that the average subject responded to the medication within 12 weeks.
Preliminary results suggest smokers are more likely to respond to the treatment than non-smokers. The treatment was also effective in patients who did not respond to chemotherapy.
Doctors say MPDL3280A has very few serious side-effects. The drug is administered through intravenous infusion. Patients would receive one treatment every three weeks.
As phase I of the trial continues, phase II and III have begun. The researchers hope the drug will be offered to the public soon.
Jean-Charles Soria, who led the research team, says “there is no discussion. This is really working.” As reported by Bloomberg, Soria says MPDL3280A “is the first targeted agent showing more activity in smoking patients than in never smokers.”
The results could offer answers to why some smokers respond better to treatment than non-smokers. Soria suggests smoking may lead to more genetic mutations in tumors. Therefore, they may respond better to boosting the immune system.
Lung cancer patients in the trial are still undergoing treatment. However, the preliminary results are very encouraging.
[Image via Flickr]