T cell therapy for melanoma shows promise 

Melanoma or skin cancer

New trial data has shown that using a patient’s own immune cells could be a powerful immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer. 

The TIL (tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes) trial compared T cell therapy to standard immunotherapy with the checkpoint inhibitor ipilimumab. 

The results of the trial were presented at the 2022 annual congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) in Paris. 

Results of the TIL trial 

Ten years ago, metastatic melanoma was almost certainly a death sentence within a year after diagnosis. However, in 49% of the patients who received TIL therapy, the metastases decreased in size. In 20% of patients, the metastases disappeared completely. 

In comparison, in the ipilimumab group, metastases had decreased in size in 21% of patients, and in only 7% did the metastases disappear. 

The progression-free survival was 53% after six months for patients receiving TIL therapy, and 21% in the control group. 

Medical Oncologist John Haanen from the Netherlands Cancer Institute, who is leading the TIL trial, is pleased with the results: “The TIL trial has shown that cell therapy using the patient’s own immune cells is an extremely powerful immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma, and that this therapy still offers a high chance of improvement, even if prior immunotherapies have failed.” 

Possible standard treatment

Patients treated with TIL reported a better quality of life than those treated with ipilimumab, in terms of general physical and emotional functioning as well as symptoms such as fatigue, pain, or insomnia. However, all TIL patients experienced side effects due to the chemotherapy pre-treatment and post-treatment with growth factor interleukin-2. 

Haanen added: “In the future we would like to find a way to avoid the use of high dose interleukin-2 by developing a more precise form of the treatment by using a growth factor that causes fewer side effects.” 

As TIL therapy is more cost-effective, the Dutch National Health Care Institute will now assess whether it could become a standard treatment in the Netherlands. 

The TIL trial was financially supported by the AVL Foundation, KWF Dutch Cancer Society, ZonMw, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Stichting Avento, and Danish organisations.

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