Immunotherapy, which uses the body’s immune system to attack cancerous cells, proved so effective that in one British-led trial, more than half of patients with advanced melanoma saw tumours shrink or brought under control, according to researchers.
The trials, a number of which have been presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual conference in Chicago, could herald a “new era” for cancer treatments.
Professor Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Centre, described some of the findings as “spectacular”, and said immunotherapy could replace chemotherapy as the standard cancer treatment within the next five years, according to reports.
He told reporters: “I think we are seeing a paradigm shift in the way oncology is being treated.
An international trial involving 945 patients with advanced melanoma saw them treated with two drugs – ipilimumab and nivolumab.
Researchers found the treatments stopped cancer advancing for almost a year in 58% of cases, with tumours stable or shrinking for an average of 11.5 months.