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Immunotherapy Could Stop Resistance To Radiotherapy, Study Finds

Update Date: Oct 01, 2014 09:04 AM EDT

Treating cancers with immunotherapy and radiotherapy at the same time could stop them from becoming resistant to treatment, suggests a new study. 

The study found that combining the two treatments helped the immune system hunt down and destroy cancer cells that weren't killed by the initial radiotherapy in mice with breast, skin and bowel cancers.

Radiotherapy is a very successful treatment for many forms of cancer, but in cancer cells that it doesn't kill it can switch on a 'flag' on their surface, called PD-L1, that tricks the body's defenses into thinking that cancerous cells pose no threat, the press release added. 

Immunotherapy works by blocking these 'flags' to reveal the true identity of cancer cells.

"Using the body's own defences to treat cancers has huge potential with early phase clinical trials demonstrating exciting patient benefit but we are still at the early stages of understanding how best to use these types of treatments. Combining certain immunotherapies with radiotherapy could make them even more effective and we're now looking to test this in clinical trial to see just how much of a difference it could make," said Dr Simon Dovedi, the lead researcher based at The University of Manchester and member of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, in the press release. 

The study was published in the journal Cancer Research. 

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