Two patients with inoperable prostate cancer have made dramatic recoveries after receiving one dose of an experimental drug that is creating excitement among cancer specialists.
Rodger Nelson and Fructuoso Solano-Revuelta were diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and sought treatment at the Mayo Clinic.
They were told the disease had spread beyond the prostate. Mr Nelson's cancer was encroaching on the abdomen and Mr Solano-Revuelta's tumour was the size of a golf ball. Patients in such condition are told they may have only months to live, and are normally only offered palliative care. But after one infusion of the drug ipilimumab, a monoclonal antibody that stimulates the immune system, given with conventional hormone therapy, their tumours shrank enough to be surgically removed. Both men have since made a full recovery and returned to their businesses.
Ipilimumab is one of a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies, which stimulate the body's own immune system to fight disease. The experimental treatment is being developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Medarex, a US biotech company. The drug is being trialled on malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, Hodgkin's disease, lung cancer and prostate cancer. Studies are most advanced in melanoma, where it has been shown to prolong survival in patients with advanced forms of the disease. In the Mayo Clinic study of prostate cancer, researchers say that standard hormone treatment ignited the immune response, and adding ipilimumab was like "pouring gasoline on the pilot light".
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