A team of UK scientists have combined Ipilimumab and Nivolumab to treat melanoma among other types of cancer, and they detailed the success of their trial at the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

The UK researchers revealed data to prove that the combination of the two drugs to combat cancer is possible under immunotherapy – a new science which trains the body’s immunity to fight for itself and attack deadly cancer cells.

Trials showed that combining Ipilimumab and Nivolumab causes 60% of advanced melanoma skin cancer to shrink considerably, and the treatment even prolonged the lifespan of some patients by as much as one year.

Researchers had earlier used surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy to treat cancer cells, but immunotherapy appears to be the winning solution at the moment with considerable results to show for it.

The body’s immunity naturally attacks strange objects and growths in the body, but it cannot overcome cancer cells because the later have the ability to disguise itself as good cells. But by combining the two drugs under immunotherapy, the drugs have the ability to “retrain” the immune system to identify these cancerous cells when they disguise themselves and then target them properly.

The dean of the University of Buckingham’s medical school, Prof. Karol Sikora, noted that immunotherapy has showed great promise for combating cancer cells and prolonging the lives of patients under trials, but warned that the end of cancer has not come yet. She noted that researchers still have a lot to learn about cancer cells and how to develop precision drugs to target them.

Further research showed that the combined drugs do not produce the same results in all patients. Some patients respond particularly well to the drugs, and others do not respond at all, while some just manage to show some response.

Researchers are still studying the reasons for this disparity. They are also studying if there would be any prolonged side-effects to the use of immunotherapy; and trying to determine if immunotherapy with combined drugs can be linked to autoimmune diseases.

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