New drug trialled at CRF effective in shrinking cervical cancer tumours

A new drug trialled at UCLH’s clinical research facility could help save the lives of women with advanced cervical cancer. 

More than a quarter the participants in trials of the immunotherapy drug Nivolumab had “significant” tumour shrinkage or complete remission. 

The drug, which works by stimulating the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells, is already licensed to treat lung cancer and melanoma (skin cancer).  

However, this is the first time the treatment has been shown to be effective for cervical cancer. The multi-centre early phase trial, carried out at the CRF and other centres in the UK, Europe and the United States, involved 24 women with advanced cancers of the cervix and nearby tissues who failed to respond to traditional treatment. 

Professor Tim Meyer, Clinical Director of the CRF, said: “This is very exciting and we are now recruiting for larger-scale trials to confirm the findings. Immunotherapy treatment has shown good results in other cancers and is showing real promise in cervical cancer, giving hope to patients for whom there were no other options. We believe this could prolong the lives of many patients and even put some into remission.” 

Nivolumab targets and blocks a protein called PD-1 on the surface of certain immune cells, called T-cells. Blocking PD-1 activates T-cells to find and kill cancer cells. 

The breakthrough findings were presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology this month at the world’s largest cancer conference in Chicago.