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Oct 13, 2016 10:04 PM EDT

The International CheckMate-141 Phae III clinical trial findings were recently presented at the 52nd annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago. Initial findings of the study were previously presented last April at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting.

According to the trial's international co-chair Robert Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., UPMC Endowed Professor, and chief of the Division of Head and Neck Surgery and co-leader of the Cancer Immunology Program at UPCI,the exciting results gathered is an indication that there is a new standard of care option for a population of cancer patients which do not have access to any other treatment options.

This drug belongs to the drug category immunotherapeutics is called Nivolumab, which is a new medication that allows the body's immune system to destroy cancer cells. Presently, it is allowed to treat certain types of cancers like melanoma and lung cancer.

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The study trials involved 361 patients that have recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. The patients have not responded to platinum-based chemotherapy, and they also have a rapidly progressing form of the disease with an especially poor prognosis, Fresh Cancer News reported.

The patients involved were randomized to receive either nivolumab or a single type of standard chemotherapy until there is an observable tumor progression. The group which received nivolumab has shown better results than those patients who received the standard chemotherapy. After 12 months, 36% of the patients who took nivolumab are still alive, as compared to the 17% from the chemotherapy group,Science Daily reported.

Nivolumab treatment resulted into a double number of patients who have their tumors shrunk. Additionally, there was a significant number of patients whose disease has not progressed yet after six months of treatment. It is also important to emphasize that these benefits were attained with just one-third lesser of serious adverse effects compared to the standard chemotherapy group.

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