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‘Killer’ immunotherapy shows early promise

Published on 11/04/22 at 09:18am

A first of its kind immunotherapy which uses the immune system’s ‘natural killer cells’ could offer potential against a range of cancers that can evade current treatments, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, has shared.

An international team including researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust assessed the new treatment in 24 patients initially in the ongoing phase I trial.

Early results from the Phase I trial saw the new immunotherapy showing signs of effectiveness in a third of patients with a range of advanced cancers that had stopped responding to treatment. This includes bowel, lung, and pancreatic cancers.

The trial’s UK lead Dr Juanita Lopez, Clinical Researcher at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, commented:

“Natural killer cells are an essential part of the immune system and are able to recognise cancer cells. This new immunotherapy, AFM24, can redirect natural killer cells to tumours by targeting a protein called EGFR, which is often found on the surface of cancer cells. Our early findings suggest it shows signs of effectiveness in some patients with very advanced cancers who have stopped responding to conventional treatments.

“This treatment is still highly experimental and our trial is at an early stage, but we are excited by its potential. It does not have to be personalised for each patient like CAR-T cell therapy, so it could potentially be cheaper and faster to use, and might work against a wider range of cancers.”

The next phase of this study will further evaluate the effectiveness of AFM24 and is now ongoing.

Professor Kristian Helin, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, added:

“This new treatment is highly innovative because it finds a way to direct natural killer cells within the immune system to tumours without requiring complex and expensive re-engineering of a patient’s own cells. So far, we’ve only seen initial findings in a small group of patients, but the results look promising, and we’re optimistic that this could be a new type of immunotherapy for cancers that are otherwise hard to treat.”

Ana Ovey

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