Combining Two Immunotherapies Improves Life Expectancy in Thyroid Cancer

The combination of two immunotherapy drugs can reach double life expectancy in patients with a type of aggressive thyroid cancer with no therapeutic alternatives, according to the results of a trial sponsored by the Spanish Neuroendocrine Tumor Group (GETNE).

Neuroendocrine tumors, as is the case of thyroid tumor, are rare cancers that can appear in any part of the body and in addition have a very varied behavior: some of them grow slowly while others grow very rapidly.

At the annual congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), which is being held these days in Paris, the results of a study, sponsored from the GETNE, have been presented, which addresses the case of some advanced thyroid tumors that are refractory to conventional treatments.

Patients who suffer from them have a life expectancy of between three and six months and are currently orphaned of therapeutic alternatives.

The immunotherapy has been a real breakthrough in revolution in cancer treatment, but to date the standard therapy for these cases, which consists of inhibiting PD-L1 (a protein that acts as a brake on the body’s immune response and which is present in higher amounts in some cancer cells), has had limited efficacy.

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However, the investigators noted that if this treatment was combined with other immunotherapy, the picture changed.

“In preclinical research it was observed that with the combination of a PD-L1 inhibitory immunotherapy with a CTLA-4 -protein of T-cells. which helps to keep immune responses under control-both were potentiated, with a synergistic effect”, explained Dr. Jaume Capdevila, president of GETNE and researcher at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO).

As a result, the researchers decided to launch the DUTHY 1 study, a Phase II clinical trial that evaluated the safety and efficacy of a combination of durvalumab, a monoclonal antibody that binds to the PD-L1 protein to help immune cells destroy more cancer cells, and tremelimumab, another antibody but which targets the CTLA-4 protein, contributing to the activation of T cells to attack cancer cells.

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The study involved. 68 patients, divided into three groups based on the type of thyroid tumor they had: differentiated carcinoma, medullary carcinoma, and anaplastic cancer.

In the first two types, patients were required to have received at least two previous lines of treatment, whereas this was not necessary in anaplastic cancer patients, being the most aggressive type, with no approved treatment today to improve their survival.

“What we have been able to observe is that in all the groups it was achieved. a survival rate of more than one year and this is very important if we take into account that we are talking about very pre-treated patients, who do not have any alternative right now,” emphasized Dr. Capdevila.

The results are “especially striking” in anaplastic thyroid cancer, “which double life expectancy”, the researcher added.

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