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Studies Reveal the Combination’s Ability to Ramp Up the Destruction of Cancers in Mice

PHOENIX — A drug combination designed to enhance the immune system’s ability to zero in and attack cancer cells has shown a pronounced therapeutic effect against advanced and metastatic cancers in mice, according to a Mayo Clinic study, published in the July 12 edition of the online journal Oncotarget.

“Cancers can remain inconspicuous in the body for months to years before causing major problems, leading the immune system to coexist rather than to attack cancers,” explains Mayo Clinic cancer immunotherapist Peter Cohen, M.D., who co-led the study with Mayo Clinic immunologist Sandra Gendler, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow Soraya Zorro Manrique, Ph.D.

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Scientists at the Duke Cancer Institute have identified a molecular key that breast cancer cells use to invade bone marrow in mice, where they may be protected from chemotherapy or hormonal therapies that could otherwise eradicate them. 

Through years of experiments in mice, the scientists have found ways to outmaneuver this stealth tactic by not only preventing breast cancer cells from entering the bone marrow, but also by flushing cancer cells out into the blood stream where they could be targeted for destruction.

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On May 17, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted accelerated approval to nivolumab (Opdivo; Bristol-Myers Squibb) for the treatment of patients with classical Hodgkin lymphoma that has relapsed or progressed after autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) and post-transplantation brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris).

The approval was based on two single-arm, multicenter trials of nivolumab in adults with relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma. The trials enrolled patients regardless of programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression status on Reed-Sternberg cells. The primary efficacy endpoint was objective response rate (ORR) as determined by an independent radiographic review committee. Additional outcome measures included duration of response (DOR).

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