Studying the immune effects of ATR inhibition plus radiation therapy
Tag: New treatment
Prof Kevin Harrington
Dr Emmanuel Patin (pictured)
Length of project:
1 year (delayed due to COVID-19)
Mr and Mrs Howes
The Institute of Cancer Research
This research aims to understand how the combination of radiotherapy and a type of drug called an ATR inhibitor may be able to change the number and type of immune cells that are found in a tumour.
It has already been shown that there are increased numbers of these cells in the tumours – but they are often put to sleep by the tumour cells. The immunotherapy drugs tested will try to wake up these cells and make them better attack tumour cells.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) have a yearly incidence of 600,000 cases worldwide with 40–50% mortality rate despite surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Immune system dysfunction plays a role in both the development and progression of HNSCC, highlighting the potential role for immunotherapy to improve treatment. Indeed, the application of anti-PD-1 therapies for recurrent or metastatic HNSCC has given promising results.
It has become clear within the last 2-3 years that head and neck cancers can respond to immunotherapies and a number of drugs have either been approved (nivolumab, pembrolizumab) or are in advanced stages of clinical testing (durvalumab, avelumab, atezolizumab, ipilimumab, tremelimumab).
This research points towards a way of combining radiation, DNA damage response inhibitors and immunotherapies to improve response and cure rates for patients with head and neck cancers. Importantly, these approaches have relevance to patients being treated for the first time, when their disease is potentially curable.
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