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Published on 22 June 2009

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Drug “holy grail” of cancer research

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An experimental antibody drug has been found to dramatically improve the outlook for patients with prostate cancer.

The drug ipilimumab – an antibody which builds on hormone therapy and boosts the immune system’s response to cancer – was trialled by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, US.

After being treated with the drug, two men with advanced and inoperable prostate cancer staged dramatic recoveries, and are now cancer-free and living normal lives.

Before treatment, both men had aggressive tumours that had grown well beyond the prostate gland into abdominal areas.

They received traditional hormone therapy to remove testosterone, which fuels prostate cancer, and were then given a single dose of ipilimumab.

The result was a fall in the men’s prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels to the point that they were eligible for surgery. Doctors were surprised to discover that the tumours had shrunk dramatically.

Trial leader Dr Eugene Kwon said: “The goal of the study was to see if we could modestly improve upon current treatments for advanced prostate cancer. However, we were startled to see responses that far exceeded any of our expectations.”

He added: “This is one of the holy grails of prostate cancer research. We’ve been looking for this for years.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

Mayo Clinic



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