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Immune-Based Lymphoma Treatment Shows Promise
Date:5/31/2009

only 9.7 percent in the chemo group.

"This is amongst the first trials to show that cancer vaccines can be effective in patients," Hwu said. "This is the deadliest of skin cancers and, when it metastasizes, the median survival is less than a year. We sorely need new approaches."

"This is the first prospective randomized trial of this combination," said Dr. Margaret von Mehren, a medical oncologist with Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. "What struck me was the six-month survival difference between the two groups. That's a really long time for metastatic melanoma."

Also at the meeting, researchers showed for the first time that trastuzumab (Herceptin) -- a highly targeted biological drug widely used to treat certain kinds of breast cancer -- may also effective in patients with advanced gastric or stomach cancers who also take chemotherapy.

"This is the first biological to show a survival benefit in an advanced gastric cancer," said study author Dr. Eric Van Cutsem, a professor with University Hospital Gasthuisberg in Leuven, Belgium. "It reduced the risk of death by 26 percent."

Herceptin targets the HER2 receptors that are found on breast cancer cells in about a quarter of patients. In this trial, the same receptor was spotted on malignant cells in about 22 percent of gastric-cancer patients, the team said.

People receiving Herceptin lived a median of 13.8 months vs. 11.1 months for those receiving chemo alone. According to Cutsem, patients with advanced stomach cancer typically only live a median of nine to 11 months.

He recommended testing for HER2 in gastric cancer patients right away. Rather than simply repeating the same trial, he pressed for trials exploring new and different ways to use the drug.

"This is an extremely important study showing that, for a significant minority of patients, the first non-cytotoxic therapy to have any kind of effectiveness against this t
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