Head And Neck Cancer Patients Hopeful As Immunotherapy Drugs Are Making Tumors Disappear In Just Weeks

The Great News

Phase III of a clinical trial that’s been going on in the UK have both oncologists and patients incredibly excited about the results. That’s because they results of the treatment have gone from “positive trends in survival” to “completely eradicated,” which are words anyone with cancer wants to hear about the cancer in their body.

The trial, which has been done on patients dealing with metastatic or relapsed head and neck cancer, has found that by using a groundbreaking combination of two immunotherapy drugs has managed to extend the patients’ lives.

Every year, around 12,000 people in the United Kingdom are diagnosed with head and neck cancer, sadly found many times at a late stage at that. Meanwhile, back in 2018 in the United States, that number happened to be 46,000 and growing.

The trial, which was conducted at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation and funded by the pharmaceutical company, Bristol Myers Squibb, despite not showing statistically substantial findings, did have one amazingly miraculous recovery for one patient.

77-year old Barry Ambrose from Bury St. Edmunds had been diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017. It had already metastasized to his lungs, which is why his local hospital even told him that his only option was palliative care. But after hearing about this innovative trial, he decided to join, and remarkably just eight months into the treatment, his cancer disappeared completely.

As shared by The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), Mr. Ambrose shared in a statement, “When the research nurses called to tell me that, after two months, the tumor in my throat had completely disappeared, it was an amazing moment. While there was still disease in my lungs at that point, the effect was staggering. In fact, I was doing so well on the trial I was allowed to pause it in November 2018 to go on a Caribbean cruise with my wife.”


They Are Smarter and Kinder Treatments

The two types of medications used in the trail were nivolumab and ipilimumab, and they weren’t known to bring patients to the type of cures such as the one that Mr. Ambrose encountered. In fact, they normally provide patients with late-state head and neck cancer an average of three more months survival without the side-effects as compared to the traditional forms of chemotherapy. This result is not considered statistically significant, although it is ‘clinically relevant by all measures.’

In fact, the average survival time was 17 months, which was the longest time ever-achieved by someone with late-stage head and neck cancer.

Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Royal Marsden, Professor Kevin Harrington, who helped organize the trial said, “Our trial shows the immunotherapy combination achieved the longest median overall survival ever seen in patients with relapsed or metastatic head and neck cancer.”

“We will need to do longer follow-up to see whether we can demonstrate a survival benefit across all patients in the trial,” he added.

Moreover, this meant that patients actually got to have a chance life their best lives during the time that they had left, rather than undergo the horrible and debilitating side-effects they normally feel from extreme chemotherapy like tiredness, nausea and even difficulty breathing.

Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, Kristian Hellin said, “Immunotherapies are kinder, smarter treatments that can bring significant benefits to patients with advanced head and neck cancer – for example, by sparing them some of the difficult side effects of chemotherapy. These are promising results and demonstrate how we ca better select the patients who are most likely to benefit from immunotherapy treatment.”

Mr. Ambrose also said, “When I was told about the trial by Professor Harrington, I didn’t hesitate to join – what did I have to lose? It turned out to be a lifeline. Although I had to make bi-weekly trips from Suffolk to the hospital for the treatment, I had virtually no side effects and was able to carry on as normal doing the things I love – sailing, cycling, and spending time with my family.”

He also shared, “The treatment I’ve received at The Royal Marsden has been second to none and I’m so fortunate they’ve continued to find treatment that works for me – they’re the gift that keeps on giving.”