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Immune-Boost Treatment Might Help Some With Advanced Colon Cancer
Date:4/6/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- By giving more intensive chemotherapy along with drugs designed to boost the body's own immune system, researchers were able to roughly double survival time for patients with advanced, metastatic colorectal cancer compared to patients receiving standard chemotherapy alone.

In fact, the trial, results of which are being presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando, was stopped early because of the promising findings.

"With this study, we have produced for the first time strong proof-of-concept that chemo-immunotherapy may be active and more efficacious than standard [chemotherapy] in metastatic colon cancer patients," said study lead author Dr. Pierpaolo Correale, an oncologist with Siena University School of Medicine in Siena, Italy.

The standard of care right now for patients with colorectal cancer that's spread to other regions is to use one of two dual-drug combinations of chemotherapy alone, or use them alongside a newly developed monoclonal antibody treatment such as Avastin (bevacizumab) or Erbitux (cetuximab). These approaches can boost overall survival to about 20 to 22 months.

For this study, the research team randomized 130 patients to receive either chemotherapy alone (with a regimen known as FOLFOX) or to receive FOLFOX plus drugs to ramp up the immune system (this regimen is known as GOLFIG).

The chemo/immune boost approach involves first giving patients gemcitabine plus standard FOLFOX chemotherapy (oxaliplatin, levofolinic acid and 5-FU/GOLF) that targets and kills the cancer cells in a number of ways -- all the while sending off signals alerting the immune system to the cancer.

This is then followed up with the administration of signaling molecules called cytokines that spur key immune cells into action. Another immune-boosting cancer drug, called alde
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