An antibody that helps a person's own immune system battle cancer cells shows increasing promise in reducing tumors in patients with advanced kidney cancer, according to researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
The results of an expanded Phase 1 trial presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual conference in Chicago, showed that some patients treated with a fully human monoclonal antibody developed by Bristol Myers Squibb had a positive response to the effort by the agent, BMS-936558, to prolong the immune system's efforts to fight off renal cell carcinoma without some of the debilitating side effects common to earlier immunotherapies.
The presentation by David F. McDermott, MD, Director of Biologic Therapy Program at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Cancer Center and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, highlights one of two key efforts underway to use the body's own disease-fighting tools against cancer.
Separate work by David Avigan MD, Director of BIDMC's Blood/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, focuses on developing a personalized vaccine, compromised of the patient's tumor and immune system agents, to battle kidney cancer.
Cancer cells have the ability to trick the immune system, the body's self-defense mechanism, which is designed to ward off infections. Immune therapy such as antibody treatment and vaccines is designed to reeducate the body to recognized cancer as an invader.
"We've known for a long time that in certain cases the immune system can be boosted in a way that can create remissions" of hematologic malignancies like leukemia and lymphoma, says McDermott. "We've been trying to create the same long term results in solid tumors, which is more difficult."
In this trial, the antibody was designed to block the Programmed Death (PD)-1 inhibitory receptor expressed by activated T cells. PD-1 acts a natural shut off valve for T cells. By blocking its action, these cells can be revived to fight cancer. In the initial portion of the trial, the agent showed "promising" activity in patients with various solid tumors, including metastatic renal cell carcinoma, melanoma and lung cancer.
In an expanded trial, patients received up 10 mg/kg of an intravenous treatment twice weekly, followed by 1 mg/kg. Patients received up to 12 cycles of treatment until either progressive disease, unacceptable toxicity or a complete response was detected.