BETHESDA, MARYLAND – In the winter of 2013, Sue Scott, then 36, had already planned her own funeral. Her cervical cancer was spreading fast. Multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery had all failed. Tumors were invading her liver and colon, and squeezing her ureters. Her last chance was to enroll in an experimental trial in which doctors were trying to partially replace patients' immune systems with T-cells that would specifically attack cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection.
Two weeks ago I lay in a hospital bed at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine and watched a clear, garlicky-smelling bag of my re-engineered white blood cells drip into my veins. The bag contained not only my collected T cells but also magic sauce from Novartis, the drug company financing a trial of a gene therapy for my specific mutation of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. This "living drug," a CAR-T treatment, may revitalize my immune system and erase my myeloma tumors and save my life. It could also kill me. Last month, the Federal Drug Administration approved the first CAR-T therapy, Kymriah, to treat a leukemia that mainly affects children.
A pioneering new clinical trial on a drug that could potentially help millions of men with prostate cancer, is under way in Derry. Tumour samples from men being treated locally are being collated to test the drug's effectiveness at the Clinical Transitional Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC), labs on the Altnagelvin Hospital site. The new trials are the result of a partnership with American pharmaceutical company Lantern Pharma and the PRAISE (prostate cancer artificial intelligence study using ex vivo models) trial is using artificial intelligence to test a cancer drug called LP-184 to predict which types of tumours are sensitive to it. The company said the groundbreaking work, which is partially funded by Invest NI, does not involve human or animals trials due to the use of AI. The new project will help guide future cancer research and clinical trials and early indications suggest there could also be benefits for research into the treatment of ovarian and liver cancer.
It's been one year since the Food and Drug Administration approved the first cooling cap system to help cancer patients in the U.S. preserve their hair during chemotherapy treatments. A new clinical trial strengthens the case that cooling caps really do reduce the risk of hair loss. Among 95 breast cancer patients who were randomly assigned to test a cooling cap, 48 -- or 51% -- still had a good amount of hair after four cycles of chemotherapy. Meanwhile, among 47 control patients who did not use a cooling cap, none had hair after four rounds of chemotherapy. The results were so striking that the trial's data safety and monitoring board decided to halt the study early and release the results, according to a presentation Friday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
Children with cancer could be missing out on potentially life-saving drugs because EU regulations allow drug companies to opt out of running trials in children, cancer experts say. Since 2012, 62% of approved EU cancer drugs were not tested on under-18s. But cancer scientists say the rules should be changed so that adult cancer drugs have to be tested on children. They are also calling for the age limit for adult clinical trials to be lowered to include teenagers. The Institute of Cancer Research in London, cancer hospital the Royal Marsden and parents of children who have died from cancer say nowhere near enough cancer medicines are being trialled in children or licensed for use in children.