Findings

Science  24 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6135, pp. 907

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  1. Combining Cancer Immunotherapy Drugs Shows Promise

    Cancer drugs that harness the body's immune system to destroy tumors may work better when two drugs are combined, a small clinical trial suggests.

    The study combined a drug approved in 2011 for advanced melanoma, ipilimumab, with an experimental drug called nivolumab. Ipilimumab blocks a protein called CTLA-4 and nivolumab blocks the PD-1 protein; tumors use both proteins to hide from the immune system. Forty percent of 52 patients responded to the drug combination. Nearly one-third saw their tumors shrink by at least 80% within 3 months—a rate higher than had been seen with either drug alone. Some patients' tumors have been kept in check for a year or more.

    "It was really the rapidity and the magnitude of the response that was impressive to us," said Jedd Wolchok of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, who will present the study in early June in Chicago at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Bristol-Myers Squibb, which makes both drugs, now plans to test them in a larger trial.