Immunotherapy Holds Promise for Sarcomas

August 5, 2008

Consolidative immunotherapy appears to be a low-toxicity treatment associated with favorable survival in patients with the Ewing's sarcoma family of tumors and alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, according to research published in the Aug. 1 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

TUESDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Consolidative immunotherapy appears to be a low-toxicity treatment associated with favorable survival in patients with the Ewing's sarcoma family of tumors and alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, according to research published in the Aug. 1 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

Crystal L. Mackall, M.D., of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues analyzed data from 52 patients with translocation positive, metastatic or recurrent alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma or Ewing's sarcoma family of tumors. All underwent apheresis for cell harvest before chemotherapy for potential immunotherapy. Thirty initiated immunotherapy and 23 completed the full course.

Five-year overall survival for all 52 patients was 31 percent, which compares favorably with previously reported rates, the researchers note. Five-year overall survival for the 30 patients who began immunotherapy was 43 percent. The regimen was well-tolerated, with the most common adverse event being six cases of grade 3 neutropenia. All immunotherapy recipients showed influenza-specific immune responses following influenza vaccination, showing that these patients have a robust ability to respond to vaccination, the authors write.

"Consolidative immunotherapy…appears feasible for a sizable fraction of patients with high-risk pediatric sarcomas who experience a good clinical response to frontline cytoreductive therapy, and patients receiving an autologous lymphocyte infusion show sufficient immunocompetence to generate vaccine-induced immune responses to influenza. However, improvements in the regimen are needed to induce strong and sustained immune responses to tumor antigens in a majority of patients. Modifications under study include alternative approaches for inducing dendritic cell maturation and the use of more immunogenic antigens," Mackall's team concludes.

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