UC Davis research could help some lung cancer patients live longer
Nearly one year longer to live: That’s what researchers at UC Davis say could result from a treatment they’ve been studying for people with advanced lung cancer.
The university’s medical researchers have spent six years testing a drug called tecemotide in a new way, using it as a booster of immune response, which means they’ve found a way the drug can help the body’s own immune system to fight lung cancer.
Dr. Michael DeGregorio, who is leading the research, said when the drug is combined with a type of chemotherapy called platinum therapy, it can potentially add 10 months to the life of a patient with stage 3, inoperable lung cancer.
“It’s 10 more months of high quality of life,” said DeGregorio, a professor of medicine. “There aren’t any maintenance therapies available. And this vaccine may, in fact, be one of the first ways to give a non-toxic, high quality-of-life therapy to these individuals.”
It’s called a vaccine not because it can prevent lung cancer, but because it can prevent it from progressing.
DeGregorio’s team of researchers injected lab mice with the vaccine, which targets a specific protein associated with cancer. The result: Tumors stopped growing as fast, DeGregorio said.
What’s more, he said studies in humans in 33 countries have shown the same thing.
“If we were just doing animal research, I wouldn’t be so enthusiastic,” he said. “But this is correlating with the phase 3 trials in humans and the new phase 3 trials that are now being instituted.”
The $8 million research, which has taken six years so far, was funded by a German pharmaceutical company, Merck, DeGregorio said.
He said the drug may be available to patients in three to four years.