ZOINKS! It’s a cancer cell!
What if cancer treatment is more like a typical ending of Scooby-Doo? The thug confesses, gives up and goes to jail.
Most cancers do one thing well – they wear a mask to fool your immune system.
Cancer wears a mask. To your immune system, it’s a pretty little happy cell happily going merrily unnoticed as it turns into an angry, gluttonous, glucose munching monster that grows and invades uncontrollably. All the while your immune system is doing other heroic things like fighting salmonella and keeping germs at bay.
Cancer doesn’t care about that. It happily hides and continues to grow.
In reality cancer cells are wimpy, simple and super dumb. If not for the mask they use, they would be easily wiped out by our immune systems. Cancer is like the opposite of being allergic to something (hyper sensitivity). So, why can’t we solve this simple little problem and get our bodies to recognize cancer cells for what they are? Well, share this article with everyone you know, because it seems that now we can unmask cancer.
What a fun time to be a biochemist.
Biotechnology is getting pretty exciting. Patients like us are flocking to clinical trials. Investors are wringing their hands with anticipation. Most of all, we as a generation get to witness something as incredible as clean drinking water and the cure for polio: we get to see the beginning of the end of cancer.
Welcome to the decade people have been praying for at bedsides of dying cancer patients for millennia. It’s finally here – and its name is Anti-PD-1, MK-3475, or as I like to think of it – Auntie PetieOne. I think of it as a super nice aunt who comes to visit and cure all of your ills. The one-two lethal punch anti-PD-1 offers to cancer cells is actually a bit gentle, like old fashioned Easter Sunday gloves. The real killing part comes from your own immune system.
Anti-PD-1 (MK-3475) works like this: Cancer masks itself from your immune system so your natural germ-fighting defense doesn’t note the bad cells as bad, which is what allows cancer cells to proliferate. Anti-PD-1 can stop the progression of widespread metastasis by stripping away the “mask” from cancer cells, which allows your bodies defense mechanism (t-cells) to see the cancer as the invader that it is. The rest is just your body’s natural defense, which seems to otherwise very easily overcome and kill the cancer everywhere.
Once the mask is gone from cancer, powerful t-cells see this is no big thang. And boom, bad cells start dying. Hallelujah.
Get into a clinical trial if possible, or hold out for a year until this will likely be FDA approved. It won’t be long, because the results are so good.
Side effects can be mild for most people, including joint pain, fatigue, whitening of hair and skin, and vision problems.
So far Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and AstraZeneca are all in a tight race to see which company brings the anti-PD-1 therapy to market first.
- Merk – MK-3475 currently in Phase II or Phase III
- Bristol-Myers Squibb – Nivolumab in Phase III
- Roche – MPDL3280A in Phase II
- AstraZeneca – AM-514 early stage testing
This type of therapy is working so well in clinical trials for so many different types of cancers, that it will likely become the cancer fighting tool of choice for progressed and difficult-to-treat cancers that normally inferred a death sentence, such as
- Widespread Melanoma
- Small cell lung cancer
- Kidney caner
- Breast cancer
- Neuroepithelial tumours
- Neck cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- As well as treating widespread metastasis of these cancers
In fact, an incredible 80% of advanced melanoma patients who were treated with the drug were still alive after one year, with overall response rate of 38% to 52%, if patients could handle the maximum dosage (10mg/kg every two weeks). That means five months after follow-up, patients’ response rates increased to 41%, then soared to 88% with partial or complete responses showing NO evidence of disease progression. For cancers that offer a life expectancy of months, this is an amazing achievement. Keep in mind, since clinical trials are still very new, we don’t yet have the data on how long these patients will continue to live cancer-free. It could be years.
Due to the amazing results MK-3475 is receiving in clinical trials, Merck is on the fast track for FDA approvals, predicting as early as this year (2014) to be FDA approved for advanced melanoma. This is the first time in history ANY drug has promised to extend survival in melanoma patients after receiving primary treatments of life-extending drugs such as Yervoy (ipilimumab). Unlike Yervoy and other drugs desgined to work with BRAF gene mutations, the anti-PD-1 trials do not require specific gene mutations to be effective. This could impact human medicine, but also veterinary medicine as well.
Sales for Bristol-Myers Squibb alone are expected to hit around $1 billion, followed by other companies completing FDA trials with revenues around $500m a year.
The stakes are high, most notably for those suffering from late stage cancers, but also for the companies themselves, which will enjoy great profitability – not to mention the notoriety which will come from finally offering a solution which can help win the fight against cancer.
Pass this article on
Much to my amazement, there’s not a lot of publicity about this treatment. If you know someone dealing with late-stage cancer, search for clinical trials with the med names and pharma companies above, and see if you can get them enrolled. It should be very soon that one of these will be done with FDA trials. It’s just a matter of time.
A small infographic on how the anti-PD-1 treatments work: