QEHB Charity is funding research that asks ‘how do we best use immunotherapy to treat skin cancer?’
There is a standard treatment for people with advanced melanoma, called Ipilimumab. It works by ‘releasing the brakes’ on the immune system so it can better fight the cancer.
However, it is not known yet if Ipilimumab is best used as the initial treatment. It might work better when used at the same time as, or after, other forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy.
The Charity is providing money to fund prime research into this question. This will enable staff to propose research and trials to obtain large-scale funding from government and bigger charities.
Neil Steven is a consultant oncologist and Graham Taylor a senior scientist. They have worked together for many years developing a vaccine to treat a different kind of cancer that is now in trials in the UK and China.
Recently, the Charity funded their work in the laboratory, which indicated that very low concentrations of chemotherapy can cause melanoma cells to alert the immune system even if the drug fails to cause cancer cell death directly.
They are now planning further work to collect blood and tumour samples from patients who are being treated for advanced melanoma. They will investigate whether there is evidence of an immune effect of chemotherapy. Doctors want to be able to develop measurements that can be used to select the best chemotherapy and the best dose that can be combined with immunotherapy.