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Immunotherapy: an anti-cancer treatment based on harnessing our own immune system to attack cancer cells

Immunotherapy, in which the body’s own immune system is harnessed to kill cancer cells in patients with advanced disease, is proving a powerful treatment in around 15% of cancer patients. Importantly this type of treatment can be used to treat a broad range of different tumour types including lung, breast and bladder cancers and melanoma.

The patients who are likely to respond to such treatment can be identified by analyzing the tumour biopsy with a special stain called the PD-L1 test. Tests which are able to identify a patient likely to respond to a particular treatment are called companion diagnostic CDx assays. Oncologica, in collaboration with AstraZeneca, has recently completed a study involving the participation of internationally recognised pathologists to assess the performance of one of these tests, called the VENTANA PD-L1 (SP263) Assay in lung cancer.

Preliminary findings were presented at the ESMO 2018 congress in Munich, Germany. The study has now been completed and the findings recently published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, a leading journal in the field of lung cancer. We have shown that assessment of tumour cell (TC) scores by expert pathologists is highly reproducible in lung tumour samples using the VENTANA PD-L1 (SP263) Assay, thus building confidence in the performance of this test as a companion diagnostic for anti-PD-L1 immunotherapy.

This will help ensure that patients who may benefit from immunotherapy are correctly identified.