Donation for a new form of immunotherapy
Thanks to your generous donations to the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Foundation, John Haanen was able to start his research into TIL treatment, a new form of immunotherapy that works by activating the body’s own immune response against cancer.
The TIL study (phase III trial) researches TIL therapy as a treatment option for patients with metastatic melanoma. This experimental treatment using the body’s own immune cells, the Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs), is often compared to a similar type of immunotherapy that has been available in the Netherlands since 2011: ipilimumab, a medicine that targets a protein that downregulates the immune response to the tumor, which shows a temporary or even long-term effect on the cancer in 10 to 20% of patients.
Steps TIL treatment
TIL immunotherapy treatment consists of several steps: First, a surgeon will remove a small piece of the tumor. The cancer cells found in this tissue sample will be isolated, altered, and grown into millions of T-cells over the course of five weeks. Meanwhile, the patients will receive chemotherapy treatment during their hospital stay to prepare the bloodstream for the millions of TIL-cells that will be returned to the body. The patient will then be hooked up to an IV for the infusion of the TIL-cells together with interleukin-2, a protein that will help the TIL-cells stay activated to destroy cancer cells. After a hospital stay of seven days, the patient can go home and will return for a follow-up consultation later.
John Haanen is optimistic about his research: “About 500 patients with metastatic melanomas received TIL, and approximately half of them have noticeably improved: we see a 30 to 40% decrease in the metastases. The treatment is clearly beneficial, even though it doesn’t always cure the illness: about 10% of patients are recovered after the treatment. The chance of recurrence is very small. All this considered, TIL treatment seems to be a promising development for people with melanomas, and perhaps, eventually, even for people with other types of cancer.”