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Researchers develop new drug that activates the immune system in patients with advanced-stage cancer

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A new study from the University of Turku in Finland has shown that there is a treatment that can activate the immune system of patients with advanced-stage cancer

A team of scientists from the University of Turku (Finland) have shown that an antibody treatment, bexmarilimab, reactivates the immune system in patients with advanced-stage cancer

According to their findings, published in the journal ‘Clinical Cancer Research’, the treatment alters the function of phagocytes in the body. And, in this way, it facilitates a wide activation of the immune defense.

This is the body’s own defense system equipped to fight cancer. However, cancer learns to hide from immune attacks. And take advantage of this system to promote its own growth. Therefore, it would be beneficial to be able to restore the immune defense to restrict the advancement of the cancer.

Macrophages, a type of white blood cell, are essential in the fight against cancer. Cancer educates macrophages to subdue the defense system and renders many immune-targeted treatments ineffective.

Development of the study and subsequent conclusions

“In the majority of patients, the antibody treatment activated killer T cells, which are the body’s strike force against cancer. Additionally, the antibody treatment successfully lowered the suppressive potential of macrophage precursors travelling in the blood circulation. The patients also showed increases in certain mediators of inflammation and types of white blood cell in the blood,” describes the study leader, Maija Hollmén.

“The activation of the killer T cells is a very promising demonstration of the antibody’s capability to boost the defense system against cancer. The treated patients had very advanced and poorly treatable cancers, which highlights the significance of the results,” adds another of the authors, PhD student Jenna Rannikko.

The research also provided new information on the mode of action of bexmarilimab. The antibody binds to the molecule Clever-1 molecule already present in macrophages and alters its function. Clever-1 transports unnecessary material into macrophages to be degraded. Objects disposed of in this way are hidden under the rug, so to speak. This type of concealment is beneficial for the natural balance of the body and helps not to agitate the immune defense unnecessarily.

However, cancer cells must be detected. When the antibody is used to prevent Clever-1 from doing its cleaning job, it facilitates the activation of immune defense cells. This, in part, leads to the awakening of T cells in patients.

Treatment for breast cancer does not increase the risk of Covid-19

When we began to know all the effects of the pandemic that appeared almost a year ago in our lives, patients diagnosed with cancer began to think about the high probability that they would suffer it. Most treatments weaken their immune systems, so they may have more options for getting it.

Now, researchers at the Perlmutter Cancer Center in the United States have shown that only 2% of the 3,000 women who participated in this study contracted the virus. Of this group, 10 died from Covid-19. A figure that, according to experts, was to be expected if we analyze women in this age group. Regardless of whether or not they suffer from breast cancer.

According to the researchers, the treatments have a minimal impact in relation to the risk of contracting Covid-19. 

“Our results show that patients can safely receive breast cancer therapy, including chemotherapy, during the pandemic,” says study principal investigator and Perlmutter Cancer Center medical oncologist Douglas Marks.

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