This drug can strengthen immune system to fight cancer

In a recent study at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and elsewhere, researchers found a drug that induces an integrated immune response in the tumors of patients with cancer types that do not usually respond to immunotherapy.

They hope the potential treatment might make such tumors more responsive to the class of drugs known as immune checkpoint inhibitors.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. One author is Tobias Janowitz.

Cancer immunotherapies, which empower patients’ immune systems to eliminate tumors, are revolutionizing cancer treatment.

Many patients respond well to these treatments, sometimes experiencing long-lasting remissions.

But some cancers remain difficult to treat with immunotherapy, and expanding the impact of the approach is a high priority.

In this study, the team interrupted that immunosuppressive pathway with a drug called plerixafor.

The drug was administered continuously by I.V. for one week to 24 patients with either pancreatic cancer or colorectal cancer with a low tumor mutational burden.

All patients had advanced disease, and biopsies were collected from metastatic tumors before and after treatment.

When the team analyzed those patient samples, they found that critical immune cells had infiltrated the tumors during the time patients received plerixafor, including a cell type known to summon and organize key players in the anti-cancer response.

The finding is encouraging because the team detected changes that have also been observed in patients whose cancers responded well to checkpoint inhibitors.

A clinical trial based on this study is about to start recruitment and will test the effects of combining plerixafor with an approved checkpoint inhibitor.

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