Initial study results show that an experimental drug, called nemvaleukin alfa, when used alone or in combination with another anticancer drug (pembrolizumab) may be effective in treating several types of late-stage cancers in some patients.
Both drugs are immunotherapies, medications designed to help the body’s immune defense system detect and kill cancer cells, much like it would an invading virus. They work by boosting the action of immune cells that both directly attack the cancer and prevent cancer cells from evading immune system surveillance.
New generations and combinations of immunotherapies are needed, researchers say, because existing treatments do not work for all patients, especially those whose cancer has (after standard treatment) returned after remission or spread to other parts of the body.
The latest international Phase I/II study, led by a researcher at NYU Langone Health and its Perlmutter Cancer Center, showed that a series of injections of nemvaleukin alfa stopped tumor growth or resulted in some shrinkage for at least six months in four out of 22 (18%) men and women with advanced kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma). Some tumor shrinkage was also observed in four of 46 (8%) patients with various forms of melanoma (skin cancer). All had cancer that had previously failed to respond to other immunotherapies. Side effects were minimal, although some patients experienced chills and anemia (temporarily low blood counts).