An experimental treatment based on the patients’ own antibodies reportedly can aid stomach cancer patients live longer even if the disease has reached advanced stages.
The findings, which were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO’s) annual gathering in Chicago, remain preliminary until the study is peer-reviewed and published in an established medical journal.
The study involved about 160 stomach cancer patients. Researchers focused on IMAB362, an antibody the body produces to fight off aggressions. The patients agreed to try out the new therapy during a phase 2 trial.
People who used the experimental drug survived on average 4.5 extra months compared to the patients in the control group, which had received only standard chemotherapy. Though the difference may not seem much, clinicians are in desperate need of a treatment to delay the outcome of metastasis gastric cancer as long as possible.
Dr. David Bernstein, liver cancer expert at Northwell Health in Manhasset, N.Y., explained that last-stage gastric cancers carry “poor diagnosis” and chemotherapy is not enough to keep patients alive.
Bernstein believes that the newly unveiled therapy is “quite encouraging.” Still, he called for a more rigorous trial that would involve a larger number of gastric cancer patients to confirm the findings.
The star of the new therapy is the antibody IMAB362 which reportedly can detect a specific protein (claudin 18.2) within cancerous tumors. Researchers found a link between high levels of the protein and better chances of survival in patients who tested the new antibody therapy. In his particular group, the average overall survival was nearly 17 months.
Dr. Salah-Eddin Al-Batran, lead author of the study, noted in a news release that the new therapy could benefit half of gastric cancer patients since the protein is “abundant” in half of the cases.
Additionally, claudin 18.2 doesn’t reside in any other healthy tissue except for the lining of the stomach so the side-effects are kept to a minimum. Scientists now hope for a phase 3 trial to confirm the findings next year.
Past research had identified claudin 18.2 in other types of tumors in lung, ovarian, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers. So, the new antibody therapy could help these patients as well.
A phase 2 study is expected to see if the antibody is effective in fighting pancreatic cancers.
In the U.S., over 26,000 Americans learn that they have stomach cancer every year. About 11,000 are expected to die of the condition annually. The prime suspect for gastric cancer is infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria left untreated.
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