Immune Therapy Shows Promise in Advanced Cervical Cancer Studies

Balstilimab and zalifrelimab may present meaningful new therapies for patients with cervical cancer
three young women string at the ocean

Preliminary results from phase II clinical trials investigating a new programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) based immune therapy for metastatic cervical cancer suggest potential new treatment options for a disease that currently has limited effective options and disproportionately impacts younger women.

These studies announced on October 5, 2020, tested an immune-based agent called balstilimab given alone or in combination, with a second monoclonal antibody drug called zalifrelimab.

Each study involved more than 150 patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer from cancer treatment centers across the USA and Europe. All patients were previously treated with platinum-based chemotherapy as a first-line therapy.

Balstilimab is part of a class of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors. These drugs target the PD-1 protein within cancer cells and act as an “on” switch to help the immune system recognize and destroy cancer cells that would otherwise go undetected. 

Zalifrelimab is a drug that delivers engineered molecules (monoclonal antibodies) that allow for an improved immune response to attack cancer cells.

For the first study, 160 patients were treated with single-agent balstilimab, resulting in a 14 percent response rate in all treated patients and a 19 percent response rate in PD-L1 positive patients.

For the second study, 155 patients were treated with balstilimab given in combination with zalifrelimab, resulting in a 22 percent response rate in all patients and a 27 percent response rate in PD-L1 positive patients.

David O’Malley, MD, of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) and Richard J. Solove Research Institute presented the preliminary study results at the European Society for Medical Oncology Virtual Congress 2020.

“These two studies represent the largest trials of immuno-oncology therapies in relapsed cervical cancer to date and show that balstilimab and zalifrelimab may present meaningful new therapies for patients with cervical cancer,” Dr. O’Malley stated in a press release. 

“Advances in these agents offer renewed hope for patients who have limited treatment options. This is especially important because this disease disproportionately affects younger women.”

O’Malley is a gynecologic oncologist at the OSUCCC – James, and professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. O’Malley is a compensated consultant for Agenus, sponsor of the studies.

To learn more about gynecologic research and patient care visit OSUCCC.

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection, and treatment.

Vax-Before-Cancer publishes research-based oncology news.