Two melanoma drugs, when used in tandem, were able to shrink tumours in nearly 60 per cent of people with advanced melanomas, a new trial has discovered.
The drugs deliver a "powerful punch" against the aggressive form of cancer that kills more than 2,000 people in Britain each year and could open up a "new era" in the battle against cancer.
An international trial conducted on 945 people has found that using the drugs ipilimumab and nivolumab together appears to stop advanced melanomas from growing for nearly a year in 58 per cent of cases.
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The treatment aims to harness the human immune system to fight against cancer, and using the two drugs together is more effective than just using either one on its own, the study suggests.
One of the UK's lead cancer investigators, Dr James Larkin told BBC News: "By giving these drugs together you are effectively taking two brakes off the immune system rather than one so the immune system is able to recognise tumours it wasn't previously recognising and react to that and destroy them.
"For immunotherapies, we've never seen tumour shrinkage rates over 50 per cent so that's very significant to see.
"This is a treatment modality that I think is going to have a big future for the treatment of cancer."
The new trial "expands physicians' arsenal against the lethal disease and, potentially, other cancers" as well, the Washington Post says.
Yet, like any medication, the treatment is not without side-effects and the study found it could cause include fatigue, rashes and diarrhoea.
Dozens of new trials have now begun to test whether the drugs will have a similar impact on other cancers, including breast cancer, kidney cancer, and colorectal cancer.
Scientists have hailed the trial as a potential "new era" for cancer treatment, The Guardian reports. "I think we are seeing a paradigm shift in the way oncology is being treated," Professor Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Centre in the US, said. "The potential for long-term survival, effective cure, is definitely there."
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