(ORDO NEWS) — Chinese scientists tested the compatibility of nasopharyngeal cancer immunotherapy with the Covid-19 vaccine SinoVac.
To their surprise, the drug did not reduce the effectiveness of therapy, but on the contrary: the vaccinated patients responded much better to the treatment and complained less of unwanted side effects.
As a rule, patients with nasopharyngeal cancer undergo immunotherapy. Until now, there have been concerns that vaccination against coronavirus could reduce the effectiveness of this treatment or lead to serious side effects.
However, a new study by scientists from the University of Bonn (Germany) and the University of Shanxi (PRC) dispelled these doubts.
Many cancer cells are able to suppress the body’s immune response. They often do this by acting on the PD1 (Programmed cell death) receptor, a membrane protein that plays a role in immune cell differentiation.
Cancer cells attach to immune cells using this receptor and block their functions, turning off the body’s endogenous defense systems.
Some types of cancer are treated with immunotherapy, in which a drug blocks the PD-1 receptor and prevents cancer cells from reaching it.
The Chinese Covid-19 vaccine SinoVac also stimulates an immune response involving the PD-1 receptor, so there were concerns that the vaccine would not be compatible with cancer immunotherapy.
This risk was especially relevant for nasopharyngeal cancer, which, like SARS CoV-2, affects the upper respiratory tract.
The scientists checked whether this concern was justified and conducted an extensive study that included more than 1,500 patients treated in 23 hospitals from all over China.
Of these, 373 were vaccinated with SinoVac. Surprisingly, it turned out that it was these patients who responded significantly better to anti-PD-1 therapy than unvaccinated ones.
In addition, they were noticeably less likely to experience serious side effects.
So far, the researchers cannot say exactly why the treatment was more successful after vaccination.
They suggest that the vaccination activated certain immune cells, which then attacked the tumor. In the future, scientists plan to investigate their hypothesis in more detail.
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