Cancer specialists have announced a new clinical trial which could increase the survival chances of children suffering from an aggressive form of cancer by boosting their immune system.
In the majority of cases, neuroblastoma can be successfully treated using standard chemotherapy. However, 40% of cases are considered to be in “high-risk” patients who are harder to treat, with only 30% surviving long-term.
Scientists from Cancer Research UK have embarked on a clinical trial which will use immunotherapy to “clean up” the remaining cancer cells following a standard course of chemotherapy.
Antibodies in the immunotherapy attach themselves to specific molecules on the surface of cancer cells called antigens.
After sticking to the neuroblastoma cells, the antibodies boost the body’s own immune system, which is then able to attack and destroy cancer cells.
Dr Penelope Brock, a consultant paediatric oncologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, who will lead the trial, said the immunotherapy treatment will be used as a “top-up” treatment following chemotherapy to eradicate individual cancer cells.
She said: “You have to have got rid of most of the disease. Immunotherapy works by linking on to one cell at a time.”
The four-year trial will involve approximately 40 children who fall into the high-risk category.