Combined Immunotherapies: The Path to a Cure

By Cancer Foundation on April 26 / 2018

[Cancer, Clinical Trials, News]Comments

When Dr. John Bell and Dr. Marie-Claude Bourgeois-Daigneault of The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa recently tested a cure for triple negative breast cancer in mice, they discovered a strategy that could be effective in treating many different types of cancer in the future.

It involves combined immunotherapies, a type of treatment where more than one immunotherapeutic approach is used simultaneously to help a patient’s immune system fight their cancer.
Immunotherapies have dominated the world of cancer research in recent years, and have shown promising results worldwide. Since many cancers or cancer re-occurrences do not respond well to standard treatments, patients are in desperate need of more options and better outcomes. Many have found new hope through immunotherapies, and recent studies have spurred researchers to wonder if different immunotherapy approaches might be even more powerful when used together.

This is what Dr. Bell and Dr. Bourgeouis-Daigeneault set out to discover as they examined the effects of treating cancer using the Maraba virus, an oncolytic virus manufactured at The Ottawa Hospital, in combination with a checkpoint inhibitor drug. A checkpoint inhibitor helps a patient’s immune system to see through the defenses cancer cells use to avoid detection, to help the immune system identify and destroy tumours. But what makes the combination approach so successful? Once the checkpoint inhibitor assists this process, an additional immunotherapy like a vaccine or a virus can be introduced to the body to kill even more of the cancer cells.

When the study concluded, up to 90% of the mouse models were completely cured of the disease, showing that the two immunotherapy treatments were indeed more effective when used in combination than if they had been used alone!

While this is an amazing discovery on its own, it truly shows another incredible accomplishment: how much of an impact you have on this community when you support local cancer care. You help world-class discoveries to happen right here in our community, which means local patients can be some of the first to benefit from good results. When studies like this show promise in the lab, they can be explored further and possibly one day develop into local clinical trials. Local researchers are far from finished in exploring the effects of combined immunotherapies, and your support provides them with the resources and funding they need to reach the next big breakthrough.

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