A new study conducted in Finland has discovered a new medication that could offer a new treatment option for patients with advanced melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. The medication, relatlimab, has been found to affect the immune system in a different way compared to other therapies that activate the immune system.
Typically, therapies have been designed to activate T cells to attack cancer cells.
However, the Finnish study revealed that patients who do not benefit from T cell activation therapies do not have the right kind of T cells to attack the cancer cells. The new therapy needs to utilize other parts of the immune system, such as the natural killer cells or NK cells, which help identify cancer cells that have evaded T cells.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. They used both the latest single-cell gene sequencing techniques and traditional measurement methods to examine the immune systems of each patient during the treatment. This unique approach allowed researchers to systematically monitor the immune systems of each patient and identify the best course of action.
An early phase study involving patients from the HUS Comprehensive Cancer Center led to the approval of the new medication by the United States in 2022. The study recruited newly diagnosed patients with advanced melanoma and patients who had not benefited from previous immune system boosting therapies. About half of the patients responded well to the treatment.
The Finnish study revealed an unexpected discovery that the greatest difference between the patient groups was not found in T cells, but rather in the so-called natural killer cells or NK cells. The study revealed that the task of the NK cells is to help identify and attack cancer cells, especially when they try to hide from T cells by hiding the surface antigens.
The research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC), the Academy of Finland, Cancer Foundation Finland, and the Sigrid Juselius and Gyllenberg foundations. The study was part of the iCAN Digital Precision Cancer Medicine flagship project funded by the Academy of Finland.
In conclusion, the new Finnish study on the medication relatlimab offers hope for patients with advanced melanoma by providing a new treatment option. The study highlighted the importance of utilizing different parts of the immune system to attack cancer cells and showed that natural killer cells play a significant role in cancer therapies. With the use of versatile research methods, the study provides new insights into the treatment of advanced melanoma and paves the way for the development of better treatments in the future.
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