This New Drug May Improve the Success Rate of Cancer Immunotherapy 

Researchers from the University of Southampton have shown a new drug that helps to improve the success rate of cancer immunotherapy treatment. This drug was initially developed to treat the scarring of organ tissue, but the study showed that it could significantly enhance the effect of immunotherapy treatment for cancer. The study was funded by Cancer Research UK.

They have used rodent models for observing the effects of the drug. The results showed that cancerous tumors developed resistance for immunotherapy treatment by creating barriers against it. GKT137831 (Setanaxib) reduces the resistance by breaking these barriers which improve the success rate of immunotherapy treatment for cancer. Recently, drug GKT317831 (Sentanaxib) has been used in clinical trials to treat organ fibrosis.

The study is published in the journal Cancer Research (journal of the American Association for Cancer Research).

Immunotherapy treatment is used to enhances the capacity of the body’s immune system for fighting against cancer. The success rate depends on the number of lymphocytes that enters into the cancerous tumor for combating the malignant cells.

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Most patients show nil response for immunotherapy because due to barriers at the edge of tumors lymphocytes face blockage, which prevents their attack on cancerous cells. During the study, the scientist told us that they have found the reason for lymphocytes blockage and determined the ways for preventing it. It substantially improves the success rate of immunotherapy treatment in many patients who have different types of cancer.

Scientists showed that cancerous cells hijacked the normal cells known as cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) for protecting them against immune attack. Fibroblasts are the normal healthy cells of the body that help in maintaining the structure of tissues.

When the cancer cells corrupted them then they form a shield around the tumors and protect them from lymphocytes attack. These fibroblasts are known as cancer-associated fibroblasts. This produces the resistance for immunotherapy treatment in cancer patients.

Many solid cancers follow this pattern and are CAF rich, which are link with poor survival such as more than 50% cases of esophageal, pancreatic, colorectal and head and neck cancers.

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In the previous study, scientists found an enzyme known as NOX4 that involved in the formation of CAF. During this study, researchers discovered that if the action of NOX4 is blocked either with dug GKT137831 or genetically then it could reverse or prevent the formation of CAF. This will allow the lymphocytes to penetrate tumors and kill them. If immunotherapy treatment is given with GKT317831 then it proves to be effective while treating the cancers.

This study was funded by Cancer Research UK to see whether this approach enhances the effects of immunotherapy in breast cancer or not.

Professor Gareth Thomas who is a professor at the University of Southampton’s Center for Cancer Immunology and author of the study said that immunotherapy treatment is an amazing development in the field of cancer research but still it is not effective in many patients.

The results of the study showed that in several patients the resistance of therapy depends on the CAF and this could be overcome if the activity of NOX4 will be blocked. The drug GKT137831 is still not tested in the cancer patients but scientists are hopeful for seeing the effective results of immunotherapy in the cancer patients as it significantly improves the success rate of immunotherapy treatment.

Liz Allaway who works at Cancer Research UK said that immunotherapy treatment is a highly effective treatment for cancer patients as it enhances the power of the immune system to fight against cancer. But unfortunately, not every patient shows a significant response to this therapy.

This study showed that the drug which was tested in the lab for another disease could improve the sensitivity of tumors for immunotherapy. Now the more clinical trials are needed to see the effects of this drug in cancer patients. So that scientists were able to give another option for treating the cancer patients more easily than before.


Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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