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Combination immunotherapy kills brain cancer in mice: Study

New research shows combination immunotherapies can work to kill brain cancer in mice.

By Amy Wallace
Combination immunotherapy kills brain cancer in mice: Study
Researchers at the University of Ottawa have been successful at killing brain cancer tumors in mice using combination immunotherapies. Photo by Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A study from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, or CHEO, Research Institute has found success using combination immunotherapies to treat brain cancer in mice.

Researchers found that a combination of drugs known as SMAC Mimetics and immune checkpoint inhibitors, or ICIs, can increase kill rates of cancer tumor cells in laboratory testing. The combination is capable of promoting long-term immunity against glioblastoma tumors, breast cancer and multiple myeloma.

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"These findings represent a significant evolution in our research and the field of immunotherapy," Dr. Robert Korneluk, distinguished professor a the University of Ottawa, senior scientists at the CHEO Research Institute and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "You could say it takes two to tango. We believe that it takes a combination strategy to impact cancer cure rates."

Previous research has shown that combining SMAC Mimetics with immune stimulators or live virus therapies increases the tumor-killing effect more than either element on its own. But the recent study shows that SMAC Mimetics have a synergistic effect with ICIs. LCL 161 SMAC Mimetics and Birinapant were combined with ICI antibodies targeting PD-1 and CTLA-4 immune checkpoints.

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"Two drug companies have initiated human clinical trials this year to assess the impact of this combination of SMAC Mimetics and ICIs on patients with a variety of cancers," Eric Lacasse, a scientist at the CHEO Research Institute and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "Although it could be years before any clinical trials begin for adults or children with the deadly brain cancer, glioblastoma, we're looking forward to seeing how scientific evidence from these experimental treatments adds to our knowledge. It's an exciting, exploratory field and we hope we've hit a home run."

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The study was published in Nature Communications.

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