The Royal Marsden

Presenting progress

In June, experts from The Royal Marsden presented the results of their pioneering research to a global online audience at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, the world’s largest cancer conference.
Aadil Khan in operating theatre

Encouraging results - Mr Aadil Khan’s review highlighted the benefits of vascularised lymph node transfer

Thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians, patients and press attended the virtual event to learn about the latest advances in oncology. With our researchers presenting across a range of topics and multiple tumour groups, The Royal Marsden continues to hold an international reputation for revolutionising the way we provide cancer treatment and care.

Breakthrough treatments for oesophageal cancer

There was positive news on the benefits of two immunotherapy treatment options that have shown significantly improved long-term survival rates for patients with advanced oesophageal cancer. The results of the CheckMate 648 study, led by Consultant Medical Oncologist Dr Ian Chau (pictured below), suggest a breakthrough that could transform treatment for this incurable disease.

The global randomised Phase 3 study enrolled 970 patients with previously untreated, unresectable advanced, recurrent or metastatic oesophageal squamous-cell carcinoma. It found that patients who received immunotherapy treatment – either nivolumab and chemotherapy, or nivolumab with ipilimumab – survived longer overall than those who received chemotherapy alone.

Dr Ian Chau

“After decades of little progress in using chemotherapy for oesophageal cancer, this study has found not one but two new treatment options using immunotherapy to extend life for these patients,” says Dr Chau.

“The clinically meaningful improvements in survival of the two treatment regimens highlight immunotherapy’s impact on cancer care and should bring new therapeutic options to a group of patients that are often diagnosed when their disease has already spread. This could have a practice-changing impact for patients globally in the future.”

Early promise for targeted brain cancer drug

Dr Juanita Lopez, Consultant Medical Oncologist, presented encouraging early results from a Phase 1 trial called BAL101553 that could lead to the first-ever targeted brain cancer treatment.

Results showed that two of the first 20 patients treated for glioblastoma, a highly aggressive type of brain cancer, responded to the targeted drug lisavanbulin. Researchers from The Royal Marsden found that the treatment was particularly effective in patients with a high expression of a protein called EB1, with two of the three EB1-positive patients showing a long-lasting response to the drug. One patient’s tumour shrank by more than 90 per cent.

“We are in a new era of personalised medicine, with markers in cancer cells offering vital clues to what treatment could target an individual’s disease,” says Dr Lopez.

“We believe that our findings from this trial could be a key step in the development of the world’s first targeted brain cancer treatment, offering hope to some patients with aggressive glioblastoma. People with brain cancer have very poor survival rates and lack treatment options, so this could be a welcome addition to our limited arsenal of tools to combat the disease.”

Dr Juanita Lopez

Pictured above, Dr Juanita Lopez. 

A step forward for advanced melanoma treatment

Professor James Larkin, Consultant Medical Oncologist, presented promising results from the Phase 2 C-144-01 trial, which showed that lifileucel, a tumour-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy, could stop or reverse the progression of advanced melanoma.

More than a third of patients on the trial responded well to this innovative type of cellular immunotherapy, which uses the patient’s own T cells to fight cancer.

“These results show that TIL therapy could offer sustained benefits to some patients with advanced melanoma that can improve over time, which could provide a new treatment for people who currently have no other options,” says Professor Larkin. “Along with potentially extending patient’s lives, this one-off treatment also means less time in hospital compared to treatment with other immunotherapies.”

James Larkin

Pictured above, Professor James Larkin. 

Promising surgery cuts lymphoedema swelling

A meta-analysis conducted by the plastic and reconstructive surgery team reported that vascularised lymph node transfer (VLNT) reduces swelling and the risk of infection in patients who develop lymphoedema following cancer treatment, and significantly improves their quality of life.

VLNT is a microsurgical procedure that reconstructs lymphatic function by taking tissue containing lymph nodes (a lymph node flap) from an unaffected part of the body and transplanting it into the affected limb.

Data from 581 patients and 31 studies from 15 countries showed that excess limb volume reduced by 40 per cent in patients who had undergone VLNT in the upper limb and by 34 per cent for those with lower-limb lymphoedema.

“Our review is the first to quantify the potential therapeutic benefit of VLNT in reducing both limb volumes and the risk of infection in patients with lymphoedema after cancer treatment,” says Mr Aadil Khan, Consultant Plastic Surgeon and joint senior author for the study.

“We are encouraged by the findings of our meta-analysis and are currently developing a randomised clinical trial to formally evaluate the benefit this technique might bring to patients with lymphoedema.”