A new combination therapy given to a tumour patient has proved to be extremely effective in ‘treating’ the cancer. However, experts believe it might be more harmful than beneficial. The patient to whom it was administered had her tumour “dissolved” from her chest in only 3 weeks. The trouble is that the tumour left behind a gaping hole.
150 patients had enlisted their participation for a clinical trial to test whether a therapy works best on its own or in combination with another one. Most of the participants responded better on the combo-therapy. However, one of them displayed somewhat worrying effects. Her case was documented in a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The 2 therapies were the FDA-approved melanoma drugs Yervoy (ipilimumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab), both of them being antibodies. The first one interferes with a molecule that can switch off T-cells of the immune system which fight cancer. The second one blocks a pathway that leads to the death of T-cells. The two therapies cause the immune system to fight cancer.
The participants of the study were made to go through the therapy of either Yervoy plus a placebo or Yervoy in combination with Opdivo.
Those who received the combination did better than those with Yervoy and the placebo. 53 %of them experienced at least 80% tumor shrinkage, and melanoma became undetectable in 22% by the end of the study. This was not the case for those of the Yervoy monotherapy group achieved this outcome.
Thereafter, advanced melanoma patients were given access to the combo-treatment. The woman mentioned had then received it as well. The patient had developed a massive mass of tumour under her left breast. She was given one dose of the combo. 3 weeks later, the tumour had allegedly disappeared.
CT scans showed that the tumour was gone, leaving a hole in her chest.
Concerns were raised as to the effect generated because holes like these might be extremely harmful if they were to be in other regions of the body, such as the heart, or the bowel.