Week 62: Rash, a possible cure for cancer and drug repurposing

Written by Lars Haakon Soraas

Week 62 in the war on cancer has passed. Here are the highlights:

  • Dyanne was in Frankfurt this week again. The rash on arms and legs is still there, so it was decided to skip a dose of nivolumab (the most likely culprit). She still got the vaccine injection and the lymph node just above her right collarbone was measured again. It now was 9.3 mm, down from 1.2 cm two weeks ago. From what I understand, this means it is not cancer.
  • Dyanne has been in pretty good shape all week, except from the rash. Tonight she is not feeling too well, but hopefully it will go over soon.
  • Dyanne did a CT and MR scan this week. We will learn the results early in the coming week. We are crossing our fingers.


Quadrouple immunotherapy to cure cancer (in mice…)

A great paper was published in Nature Medicine a week ago. It is written by Darrell Irvine, Kelly Moynihan, both from MIT, and others. They have tested a quadrouple immunotherapy combination in mice with great success. The combination consists of a tumor-antigen specific antibody, extended half-life IL-2, an anti-PD-1 drug (such as e.g. nivolumab or pembrolizumab) and an amphiphilic peptide vaccine. The paper is great because the researchers tackle head on some of the challenges which make metastatic cancer so difficult to cure: the heteregoneity of cancer and the microenvironment surrounding the cancer cells. The researchers have come up with a strategy that may actually overcome these problems and hence, knock on wood, cure cancer. It is not often that ambitious papers like these are published in the cancer world. Most researchers seem to be satisfied trying to make incremental improvements challenges in survival outcomes (typically measured in months).

The treatment strategy proposed by Irvine, Moynihan and others will not be easy to implement in practice. But if anyone thought curing cancer would be easy, well, they better find something else to do. Anyone interested in curing cancer should read the paper which I have put in our Dropbox folder. Here it is: Eradication of large established tumors in mice by combination immunotherapy that engages innate and adaptive immune responses.

Drug repurposing

We have done some research on a drug called amlexanox. It is an old drug used to treat canker sores. Some recent pre-clinical research indicates it may also be beneficial for EGFR positive lung cancer patients and it may also help boost immunotherapy. As Dyanne is an EGFR positive lung cancer patient doing immunotherapy, we naturally found this rather interesting. It seems amlexanox is only available in pill form in Japan, so we are now trying to find a way to get this drug from Japan to Norway.

I have been invited to speak at a seminar in Bergen on 10th November about repurposing of drugs: Personalized Cancer Therapy: Repurposing and in vitro drug screens. The lack of interest, both from politicians and hospital bosses, for drug repurposing is sad. However, it is also a symptom of some of the structural problems with the health care system here in Norway (and also many other countries). I suspect it will be easier to cure cancer than to fix Norway’s health care system.

It has been a beautiful automn weekend here in Oslo. A couple of photos from the weekend are attached. Have a great Sunday everyone!




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