Experts say spectacular results from a host of major patient trials signal a “new era” of cancer treatment.
The drugs, which harness the body’s immune system to destroy tumours, are proving so effective that in one trial involving British patients, 60 per cent with terminal skin cancer saw their tumours shrink significantly.
Some who had been given just months to live saw their disease disappear completely. The immunotherapy drugs could save the lives of tens of thousands of people in Britain each year.
Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s lead clinician and head of cancer medicineat the University of Southampton, said: “The evidence emerging from the clinical trials suggests that we are at the beginning of a whole new era for cancer treatments.
“Some of the most common types of cancer seem to be treatable with immunotherapy, taken that overall cancers of the lung, kidney, bladder, head and neck, and melanoma cause about 50,000 deaths a year, or around one third of cancer deaths.”
Professor Johnson said the new treatments were “the next big step forward for cancer treatment”.
He said: “In the 1970s we had chemotherapy, early this century we had molecular targeted treatment, now we have immunotherapy.”