Game-changing lung cancer study published

06 May 2015

Westmead Hospital’s lung cancer trial has caused much excitement in the medical community.

The trial is a multicentre international study that has tested a new immunotherapy drug called Pembrolizumab, which is designed to mobilise the body's own immune system to fight cancer.

The results so far are promising and phase one of the trial, which ran for three years, has recently been published in a prestigious journal.

Clinical Associate Professor, Rina Hui, is the principal investigator and is working out of the Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital.

“Westmead Hospital was the only Australian site involved in this study. There were 34 centres around the world,” said A/Professor Rina Hui.

All patients involved in the trial have incurable lung cancer that has already spread.

Around 500 patients were involved in the trial, and a quarter responded to the treatment.

Patients on the trial who are responding continue to receive treatment and follow-up care.

“This is a new class of drug that works in a truly remarkable way that many of us would never have thought possible,” said A/Prof Hui.

“In order for cancers to grow, they have a very tricky way of dampening down the immune system.

“What the drug is doing is actually releasing the body's own immune system from what is a suppressive effect that the tumour has had on it.

“Not everyone will respond and those who respond will have a long-lasting response.”Patients are taking the drug every three weeks via infusion for 30 minutes. It is well tolerated with minimal side-effects.

The initial findings of this trial were presented at the World Lung Cancer Conference in October 2013.

Current trials on this particular drug is ongoing in patients who are newly diagnosed with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

Other immunotherapy clinical trials are being conducted in the areas of breast, bladder, head and neck cancer and colon cancer.

If you would like more information, speak with your medical oncologist for advice if trials would be suitable for you.