The new study offers hope for improved treatments for both neuroblastoma, a cancer that affects young children that develops from nerve cells, and osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that occurs predominantly in adolescents and young adults.
The fact is that from one third to half of patients with these types of cancer either never respond to chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, or respond, but then fight a relapse. Today, most of these patients die.
According to a study conducted on mice led by scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine (USA), a combination of anti-cancer antibodies significantly helps in the treatment of these two difficult-to-treat childhood cancers.
The experts injected mice with cancer with antibodies that target two types of immune markers on the surface of cancer cells. Taken together, the antibodies, called anti-GD2 and anti-CD47, were far more effective against cancer than either alone.
The scientists were surprised at how well this combination worked, given that these antibodies performed quite poorly on their own. At 40 days after the start of the experiment, all mice with neuroblastoma that were injected with individual antibodies died of their tumors, and all mice that received both antibodies were cured.
The therapy also prevented the spread of cancer in mice with osteosarcoma, the study authors report. Although the antibody combination was somewhat less effective in osteosarcoma, it prevented the cancer from spreading to the mice’s lungs. This finding was encouraging as lung metastases are a common cause of death in people with the disease.
Promising results led to the first clinical trial of the antibody combination. It is attended by about 80 participants who are children and young people who have relapsed neuroblastoma, or whose neuroblastoma has never responded to treatment, or who have relapsed osteosarcoma. The experiment is taking place in 14 US cancer centers.
“We’re already moving the results to the clinic, and we’re excited to see the combination of antibodies work in children,” said postdoctoral fellow Joanna Teruwat, MD, lead author of the study.