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Experminetal drug cures terminal bladder cancer

A new experimental drug makes cancer vulnerable to the body's immune system.

Experminetal drug cures terminal bladder cancer

The new drug helps to strip cancer cells of the camouflage they use to help evade attacks by the body’s natural immune system.

Published in the journal Nature, the drug trial study even helped cure some patients completely of terminal bladder cancer.

Doctors and cancer researchers say the findings may mark a new era in cancer treatment and cure.

The body’s immune system is in a constant delicate balance with chemicals in the body that encourage strong response and those which dampen its response.

Tumours have been shown to hijack this system to hide and go under the immune system’s radar.

One way in which this is done is using a protein known as PD-L, which is normally used to prevent autoimmune diseases. So a team of international scientists decided to trial a drug to block this PD-L1 protein. They trialled the drug on 68 people with advanced bladder cancer who had been given six to eight months to live – having already undergone chemotherapy.

More than half of the patients used in the trial, whose tumours were using the PD-L1 protein to hide form their immune systems, showed signs of recovery.

Remarkably, two patients showed no signs of cancer after the treatment.

The experimental therapy saw a response in patients where PD-L1 wasn’t present in the tumour.

“There have been no new drugs for bladder cancer for 30 years,” explained Dr Tom Powles, one of the study’s research team from the Barts cancer institute at Queen Mary University in London.

“The tumours have developed a camouflage layer, PD-L1, and by removing the camouflage the tumour becomes identifiable.”

“A subgroup of patients seems to do exceptionally well.”

Developed by pharmaceutical company Roche, has been given “breakthrough therapy” status in the US. It could be used widely by patients as early as late 2015, if a larger trial shows the same results.

Much larger randomised clinical trials would be needed in order for the experimental therapy to be used in Europe.

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