Researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) have evaluated immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab in a small clinical trial for the treatment of cancerous forms of gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD).

GTD is characterised by abnormal cells or tumours, which begin from womb cells that usually give rise to placenta, while pembrolizumab is designed to trigger the immune system of the body to target and destroy cancer cells.

Results showed that remission was achieved following treatment in three out of four subjects aged 37-47 with multi-drug resistant cancerous GTD.

The trial was carried out at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust’s Charing Cross Hospital and at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health in Stockholm.

Patients were administered with intravenous pembrolizumab every three weeks for six months.

“The current treatments to tackle GTD cure most cases of the disease.”

It was observed that pembrolizumab was well-tolerated and the participants are reported to not display signs of cancer recurrence for five months to more than two years at follow up.

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The researchers expect that the drug could potentially result in a 100% cure rate for women with drug-resistant GTD.

ICL professor Michael Seckl said: “The current treatments to tackle GTD cure most cases of the disease.

“However, there are a small number of women whose cancers are resistant to conventional therapies and as a result have a fatal outcome.

“Immunotherapy may be a life-saving treatment and can be used as an alternative to the much more toxic high-dose chemotherapy that is currently used.”

The team intends to further evaluate the effects of pembrolizumab on fertility to determine its use during early treatment stages.