A new cancer treatment is being developed by a research team at the Bundang Medical Center in the Seongnam Gyeonggi province in South Korea. The treatment works by defeating the resistance that sometimes comes from the body when the its exposed to immunotherapy.
Combination Therapy Using STING
The leaders of the research team were professors Jun Hong-jae and Kim Chan. They were able to overcome the resistance through a new form of combination therapy. Combination therapy is when more than one treatment is used on a particular cancer patient. Traditionally, doctors have tried to treat cancer through immunotherapy only, but there is a growing body of evidence that combination therapy is more effective and prolongs survival. In this instance, the professors combined three treatments to use on the patients: stimulator of interferon genes (STING), cancer angiogenesis inhibitors, and immunotherapy.
How Does STING Work?
The researchers began their study by analyzing cancerous tissues from 400 different patients. They then used the STING treatment, which works as a kind of sensor. It is able to detect when cancer cells have invaded the body and locate exactly where they are. STING is also able to find the cancerous cells in blood vessels. The more cancer cells that are present and can be found by STING, the higher the “STING expression” is for that patient. The professors then found that people with a higher expression on the STING sensor were more likely to benefit from immunotherapy. This is the first study in the world that indicates a STING sensor has an impact on the cancer patient’s outcome.
A Key Finding
Additionally, 60% of the patients did not see any response at all to immunotherapy by itself, but experienced remission when they were given the triple combination therapy. The professors and research team said that this was the most important finding of the study and shows the potential for combination therapies for cancer patients.
In the Press
The hospital that hosted the study put out a press release explaining the results as well. The release said the combination therapy significantly increased how long the tumor was suppressed by the immunotherapy and increased survival time in a majority of the patients who used it.
Professor Kim added that this could represent a new therapeutic treatment that makes traditional immunotherapies far more effective in stimulating the body to fight cancer. He said this is particularly true in immunotherapies used to fight intractable cancer, examples of which are kidney cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, and bladder cancer. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.