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Animal studies & skin cancer treatment

A treatment, which makes use of a patient’s own immune system, has shown promising results against an aggressive type of skin cancer.

In a clinical trial led by EARA member the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), almost half of the enrolled patients with melanoma – the most serious type of skin cancer – saw their tumours shrink or completely disappear, thanks to a tumour-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy.

The immunotherapy works by taking immune cells from a cancer patient and multiplying the cells in the lab, which makes them more active. This process must be done individually for each patient. When the immune cells are returned to the body, they outnumber the cancer cells, allowing them to better destroy the cancer.

TILs were originally first isolated and tested as a cancer therapy in mice in the 1980s, and animal studies have continued to help with our understanding of TILs in different contexts, such as cell mechanisms – ultimately laying the foundations for human TIL therapy.

In the trial, TIL therapy eradicated melanoma in one in five patients throughout the body, even when the cancer had spread in a process called metastasis.

Dr John Haanen, at NKI, said the study showed that: “… therapy with the patient's own immune cells is an extremely powerful form of immunotherapy in metastatic melanoma”.


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