At the American College of Rheumatology 2019 Annual Meeting last week, it was mentioned that earlier this year, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched a phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate how effective nivolumab is for the treatment of cancer in patients with autoimmune disorders.
Between 10% and 30% of all cancerpatients have an autoimmune disease, according to Hussein Tawbi, MD, PhD, director of melanoma clinical research and early drug development at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who is one of the lead NCI trial investigators.
“And not only are these people excluded from immunotherapy treatment, because nobody dares to treat them, they are at a higher risk of developing cancer to start with,” Tawbi explained, because they “are often on chronic immune suppression therapy.”
“That’s what we really had been thinking about,” he told Medscape Medical News. “Can we do this in a very controlled and measured way, and really identify what the toxicities are, how much is the risk, and how you need to handle it to treat side effects as they arise?”
Study participants have different autoimmune diseases — including dermatomyositis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Sjogren’s syndrome — at different levels of severity.
The researchers hope to build a repository of blood samples and, if possible, tumor samples from this patient population to create a scientific resource that will increase the understanding of cancer and autoimmune disease and be used to test treatment options.
Principal Investigator: Hussein A. Tawbi, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center