The newly created task force on cancer, in what Vice President Joe Biden has called a “moon shot” to cure the disease, is to put the US on a path to achieve in just five years research and treatment that otherwise might take a decades or more. Although the memorandum does not commit the government to major new spending, the task force’s role will be to focus on making the most of federal investments, targeted incentives, private sector efforts from industry and philanthropy, patient engagement initiatives and other mechanisms to support cancer research and enable progress in treatment and care.
One area of promise in oncology, has been cancer immunotherapy, which harness the power of the immune system to eradicate cancer and prime the immune system to fight off relapses. For decades, most cancers have been treated with the standard of care treatments which typically include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy is a wide area of cancer treatment and research that has built momentum in recent years. Many different types of immunotherapies have been effective in treating and even potentially curing melanomas, B-cell Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and are currently being developed to treat nearly every time of cancer, including breast cancer. Recent research showed that 70 percent of multiple myeloma patients recovered with immunotherapy.
New Thinking in Head & Neck Cancer
CEL-SCI Corporation, a Vienna-based biotech firm is currently investigating their flagship investigational cancer immunotherapy, Multikine (Leukocyte Interleukin, Injection), in a global Phase 3 clinical study in head and neck cancers, in what they believe is the logical next step in immunotherapy development. Based on the results of earlier human studies, researchers at CEL-SCI believe that cancer immunotherapy should be administered as an initial therapy before a patient’s immune system has been debilitated by surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Data from earlier Multikine Phase 2 human studies, demonstrated that when Multikine was administered for only 3 weeks immediately after diagnosis, the treatment reduced and in some cases eliminated all signs of a tumor before surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy, for head and neck cancer patients, were administered.
Other investigational cancer treatments and immunotherapies are usually tested as a last resort on patients who have already undergone and failed standard of care treatments. Therapies which are used as a last resort and show some efficacy, will have reached their clinical study primary endpoint in a fairly short period of time. That is because patients with end-stage disease generally have a shorter life expectancy.
The company is the first to advance its investigational cancer immunotherapy into Phase 3 studies where it is actually administered as a first-line treatment immediately after diagnosis within a three-week window before any standard-of-care treatments. Most other cancer immunotherapy treatment regimens must be administered over longer periods of time and cannot be given in the brief three-week period before the current standard of care (surgery and/or radiation and chemotherapy) must be administered. If this treatment regimen is proven successful, the drug will, (1) reduce the number of cancer recurrences and, (2) increased the overall survival of the patients who were treated with the drug.
The hope is that someday Multikine will be administered as the first treatment right after initial cancer diagnosis for many different types of cancers.