Long-term clinical trial results were presented today at the 1st European Lung Cancer Conference demonstrate that MAGE-A3 ASCI (Antigen-Specific Cancer Immunotherapeutic), an immune-boosting treatment for lung cancer patients, reduces the risk of relapse after surgery -- to the same extent as chemotherapy.
Prof. Johan Vansteenkiste from University Hospital Gasthuisberg in Belgium described the results after 44-months follow-up from a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 182 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer -- the most common form of the disease.
"The aim is to help the body immune system to recognize the MAGE-A3 antigen and therefore eliminate the cancer cells that express MAGE-A3," explains Prof. Vansteenkiste. "In other words, it is a kind of treatment method that makes the body immune system specifically attack the lung cancer cells."
After 44 months, 69 of 182 patients had experienced a recurrence of their cancer, including 57 deaths. Those given the MAGE-A3 injections had longer on average before their cancer recurred, were less likely to have any recurrence, and were less likely to die.
"Surgical resection is the standard treatment for patients with early stage lung cancer, but after complete resection about 50% will relapse and die from their cancer," says Prof. Vansteenkiste. "Postoperative chemotherapy is able to improve cure rates, but is sometimes poorly tolerated by patients recovering from thoracic surgery. In addition, not all patients are fit to receive chemotherapy.
Most patients only experience mild reactions at the injection site and fever within 24 hours of the injection, he explained. "Therefore, it is suitable for long-term maintenance treatment and for most patients, including older patients or patients in weak physical condition after surgery, allowing them to live a normal life whilst on cancer treatment." A large Phase III trial of the therapy, named MAGRIT, is now underway.