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Hope for terminally ill cancer patients as trial suggests new immunotherapy drug could give sufferers precious extra months of life

  • AFM24 stopped tumours growing in a third of patients with advanced cancers 
  • Trial conducted on 24 cancer patients at Royal Marsden Hospital in London
  • Three patients saw their tumours decrease and eight saw growth stopped 

Terminally ill cancer patients could benefit from a new immunotherapy drug, a trial suggests.

The groundbreaking drug — known as AFM24 — stopped tumours growing in a third of patients with hard-to-treat cancers

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London tested the drug on 24 patients who had run out of other options.

Two patients with bowel cancer and one with lung cancer taking the drug even saw their tumours shrink or stop growing.

Experts hailed the drug, ofloxacin 400 mg tablet price made by Affimed and taken as a drip, as a potential game-changer.

It could be safer, cheaper and faster than other complex therapies like CAR-T, which require changing a patients own cells. AFM24 redirects the body’s own natural killer immune cells to attack tumours.

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment which trains the body’s own immune system to recognise and fight the disease.

The therapy can help stop cancer returning as the immune system remembers the rogue cells and can attack if it returns, unlike other forms of therapy.

Cancer patients with hard-to-treat tumours could have their lives extended with new immunotherapy drug AFM24, a trial at the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust has shown

What is AFM24? 

AFM24 is a new immunotherapy cancer drug being trialled in Britain.

How does it work? 

The drug works by redirecting the body’s own natural killer immune cells to target tumours.

What cancers can it treat?

AFM24 has been shown to be effective on bowel, lung and pancreatic cancers.

Experts believe it might work against a wider range of cancer types

Is it available yet? 

Not widely, but patients at the Royal Marsden Hospital have received it in a Phase 1 Trial.

More trials are needed before the drug is recommended on the NHS. 

It can also trigger fewer side effects than chemotherapy. 

Some immunotherapy treatments are already available in the UK, including pembrolizumab and atezolizumab, which are used to treat lung cancer.

The Phase 1 trial of AFM24 was designed to test how effective the drug is, how safe it is and what dosages work best on patients.

Doctors offered 24 people with cancer positive for EGFR — a key protein involved in cancer growth — doses of the drug.

They had all stopped responding to regular treatments and had no other options to slow the disease’s growth. 

The results — set to be presented at THE at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in New Orleans on Monday — showed eight out of 24 patients responded to the immunotherapy and saw their cancers stop growing.  

AFM24, which is administered intravenously, was generally well-tolerated by patients.

The ICR said the immunotherapy has a ‘warhead’ targeted at EGFR, which is commonly produced by lung, bowel, kidney, stomach, pancreatic and biliary cancers.

Further studies are now evaluating AFM24 in combination with other immunotherapies such as atezolizumab to target EGFR-positive tumours.

The trial’s UK lead Dr Juanita Lopez, from the ICR and consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden, said: ‘Natural killer cells are an essential part of the immune system and are able to recognise cancer cells.

‘This new immunotherapy, AFM24, can redirect natural killer cells to tumours by targeting a protein called EGFR, which is often found on the surface of cancer cells.

‘This treatment is still highly experimental and our trial is at an early stage, but we are excited by its potential.

‘It does not have to be personalised for each patient like CAR-T cell therapy, so it could potentially be cheaper and faster to use, and might work against a wider range of cancers.’

Professor Kristian Helin, chief executive of the ICR, said: ‘This new treatment is highly innovative because it finds a way to direct natural killer cells within the immune system to tumours without requiring complex and expensive re-engineering of a patient’s own cells.

‘So far, we’ve only seen initial findings in a small group of patients, but the results look promising, and we’re optimistic that this could be a new type of immunotherapy for cancers that are otherwise hard to treat.’

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