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New colon cancer treatment successfully tested

New colon cancer treatment successfully tested
New colon cancer treatment successfully tested


Results from a new study suggest that immunotherapy could be used effectively to treat the most common form of colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer.

The results of the new study, a phase 1 trial using the immunotherapy drugs botencilimab and balstilimab, were published in the journal Nature Medicine, This is the first time that a consistent and durable response to immunotherapy has been reported in a difficult-to-treat patient.

The study was co-authored by Professor Justin Stebbing from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), who described the results as “potentially groundbreaking”. The research focused on the most common type of colorectal tumour called MSS mCRC (microsatellite stable metastatic colorectal cancer).

Immunotherapy has previously been shown to be effective in patients with specific mismatch repair-deficient (dMMR) tumours, but only a small proportion of colorectal cancer patients have these types of tumours, and immunotherapy has so far been ineffective in patients with the more common MSS mCRC tumours.

The new study involved a group of US patients receiving a combination of the immunotherapy drugs botencilimab and balstilimab, both monoclonal antibodies that work to stimulate the body's immune system to attack cancer.

Of the 101 patients in the Phase 1 study, 61% had tumor shrinkage or stability after receiving the combination of botencilimab (BOT) and balstilimab (BAL). The most common side effects, or treatment-related adverse events, were diarrhea and fatigue.

“These results are extremely exciting,” said Justin Stebbing, professor of biomedical sciences at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge, UK, and co-author of the study. “Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide and this is the first time there has been compelling evidence that immunotherapy works against all types of colon tumours, which is potentially groundbreaking.”

“It is now in late-stage clinical trials and we hope that the US FDA will approve it for use quickly. We also hope that the UK authorities will be able to act quickly as well, as this is a significant area that affects so many people.”

Co-first author Andrea Block, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said: “This study highlights the potential of the BOT/BAL combination in treating microsatellite-stable metastatic colorectal cancer, the most common form of colorectal cancer that has previously resisted immunotherapy, and we hope our findings offer new hope to those diagnosed.”

Co-senior author Anthony Elkueiry, PhD, associate director for clinical research and chief of developmental therapeutics at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, said: “This phase 1 study of botencilimab highlights its promising antitumor activity, including in immunologically cold tumors such as MSS colorectal cancer. The noted efficacy highlights the potential of botencilimab through broader engagement in antitumor immunity.”




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