Catholic Health, through its partnership with the Roswell Park Care Network, is the only health system in the New York metropolitan area participating in a clinical trial to examine the impact of lung cancer treatment immunotherapy, CIMAvax-EGF. To date, more than 5,000 lung cancer patients globally have been treated with this EGF-depleting immunotherapy. Several international studies have indicated improved overall survival and quality of life for patients receiving the treatment.
Researchers at the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) developed CIMAvax in Havana, Cuba. It is a type of immunotherapy that uses the body’s immune system to fight lung cancer, effectively starving cancer cells of a protein needed for the cancer to survive. Studies are underway to determine whether it may also be an effective treatment option for squamous cell carcinoma in the head and neck.
An important component of the immune system is its ability to keep itself from attacking normal cells in the body. To do this, it uses “checkpoints” — or proteins — on immune cells that need to be turned on (or off) to launch an immune response. Cancer cells sometimes use these “checkpoints” to avoid being attacked by the immune system. Drugs that target these “checkpoints,” known as checkpoint inhibitors, can be used to treat some people with non-small cell lung cancer.
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center initiated the historic first U.S.-sponsored clinical studies involving CIMAvax-EGF in 2017. Roswell Park researchers believe CIMAvax-EGF, in combination with checkpoint inhibitors such as nivolumab (also known as Opdivo) or pembrolizumab (also known as Keytruda), may enhance the effectiveness of these breakthrough immunotherapies.
“The continued study of immunotherapies to treat both lung and head and neck cancer is very exciting and holds a great deal of promise for the future,” said Catholic Health’s Chair of Cancer Services Bhoomi Mehrotra, M.D. “Catholic Health’s partnership with Roswell Park allows us to participate in research such as the CIMAvax clinical trial as part of our effort to continue to bring cutting-edge cancer treatments to Long Islanders.”