Study Shows Potential of a New Personalized Strategy for Advanced Cervical Cancer

ASCO Annual Meeting
June 2, 2014

Women with cervical cancer that has spread to other parts of the body have few treatment options, especially if the disease gets worse during or after treatment. As a result, newer approaches to treatment are needed. A small study looking at a new type of personalized immunotherapy, known as adoptive T-cell therapy, has produced some promising results. This treatment approach boosts the body’s natural defenses against the human papillomavirus (HPV) to fight the cancer. HPV is the virus that causes cervical cancer, and HPV proteins are usually found in cervical cancer cells.

Adoptive T-cell therapy is called a personalized treatment because immune cells that specifically attack cervical cells containing HPV proteins are grown from a person’s tumor in a laboratory. These cells are then delivered back into the body to treat the cancer using an intravenous (IV) tube placed into a vein.

During this study, nine women with cervical cancer received adoptive T-cell therapy. After treatment, two women had no signs of cancer, which is called a complete remission. Both of these women joined the study with cancer that had spread throughout their body (widespread metastases), and their disease had worsened despite previous treatment. According to the researchers, these women have remained cancer-free for 11 and 18 months and will continue to be monitored.

Treatment with adoptive T-cell therapy caused a number of serious side effects, the most common being low blood counts, infections, and metabolic disorders.

What this means for patients

“This proof-of-principal study shows that adoptive transfer of HPV-targeted T-cells can cause complete remission of metastatic cervical cancer and that this remission can be long-lasting,” said lead study author Christian Hinrichs, MD, Assistant Clinical Investigator at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD. “This treatment is still considered experimental and is associated with significant side effects. We also need to explore why this therapy worked so well in certain women and not in others.”  The researchers are planning to expand this study to enroll additional patients. Adoptive T-cell therapy is also being offered at an increasing number of major medical centers in the United States and other countries. Talk with your doctor about all of your treatment options for cervical cancer, including clinical trials.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What stage of cervical cancer do I have?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?
  • What clinical trials are open to me?
  • What is my chance of recovery?

More Information

Guide to Cervical Cancer

HPV and Cancer

What is Immunotherapy?

Advanced Cancer