Results from a recent phase II study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that a combination of ipilimumab and nivolumab (already approved for the treatment of kidney cancer) doubles the response rates from 20% to 40%. These results are unprecedented and lead to responses that last beyond 2 years.

The multicentre trial involved 100 patients, and half of the patients in the study had metastases that had grown while they were on previous therapy.

“For this group of patients, these are very significant results,” said lead researcher Dr Hans Hammers, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

The results of a pivotal phase III trial, which has now completed recruitment of patients, are awaited. Should the results of the phase II study be repeated in the larger phase III trial, it could lead to a new standard of care for kidney cancer patients, said Dr. Hammers.

However, activation of the immune system with immunotherapy drugs can lead to serious immune-related adverse events, requiring potent anti-inflammatory drugs. “While side effects of immunotherapy can be significant, they are typically reversible, and unlike current therapies, don’t significantly dampen patients’ daily quality of life,” said Dr. Hammers.

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