Week 59: neoantigen news and another pembrolizumab breakthrough

Written by Lars Haakon Soraas

Week 59 in the war on lung cancer has passed. Here are the highlights:

  • Dyanne has been in ok shape this week. A bit of a cough still, and a bit tired. She has also had some rash (actually also had this last week, but forgot to mention). Rash is most likely a side effect of the treatment.

As the update itself was very brief this week, I will make the “In other news” section a bit longer. Below are some other news.

Three people I have been in touch with, directly or indirectly, have passed away the last two weeks. Nina Engemoen was a Norwegian cervical cancer patient. I believe she was in her late 30s. She left behind a husband and young daughter. Penny, in the US, was the wife of Richard Hill. She just got to celebrate the wedding of one of their sons before she had her last breath due to EGFR positive NSCLC. Finally, Melissa Bender, also in the US, was another never-smoker who died of lung cancer. She left a husband and two children behind. I feel like I am reporting from a war, and I guess in a sense I am.

In neoantigen news, I have come across a cancer researcher in the US who has colon cancer. He is busy working on developing a neoantigen vaccine to treat his own cancer. The vaccine he is working on sounds very similar to the vaccine Dyanne is getting in Germany. Even if no one knows whether such vaccines really will work, it is somewhat comforting to see a cancer researcher-cum-patient is travelling the same road as us. Read the very inspiring story of Tom Marsilje here.

In other neoantigen news (lot of neoantigen news these days…): yet another company, Achilles Therapeutics, has been launched to develop personalized vaccines based on neoantigens. A Nature journal had yet another article on personalized cancer vaccines and someone even has decided to organize a Neoantigen Summit in Boston in November.

The world’s second largest cancer congress is currently taking place in Copenhagen. The ESMO 2016 Congress gathers some 20 000 cancer researchers, doctors and many others from all over the world. Maybe the biggest news, at least for lung cancer, was that the immunotherapy drug called pembrolizumab has been proven to be better than standard chemotherapy as first line treatment for lung cancer patients with high PD-L1 expression. Expect Norwegian politicians (in particular minister of health Bent Høie) and hospital bosses to drag their feet before they start offering this expensive treatment to patients here in Norway. Why would they care if many hundred lung cancer patients die while they deliberate whether to offer this to Norwegian patients? Dead people don’t vote anyway.

Autumn weather here in Oslo these days. We went for a walk in the forest today. Hope everyone has had a good Sunday!


Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.