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Latest immunotherapy cancer battle on show

AAP logoAAP 24/08/2016 Rachel Gray

Cancer patients who trialled the latest immunotherapy treatments have reported little-to-no side affects, an international conference in Melbourne has been told.

Eight patients treated in Australia with different immunotherapies appeared at the International Congress of Immunology in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Ben Vanderveldt had cancerous glands removed from his throat, but the cancer returned and doctors told him his only chance of living was trialling an immunotherapy.

One of the therapies was immune-boosting drug Keytruder.

"Over the period of my treatment, I have had virtually no side-effects," Mr Vanderveldt told AAP.

Susanne Harris was also on Keytruder after chemotherapy failed, and she reported only minor itching.

"Twelve months ago, after I came off Keytruder, there has been no sign of (the cancer returning)," Mrs Harris said.

Diagnosed with "unconfirmed complete remission", David Mitchell said both his brain tumours disappeared after undergoing treatment with Keytruder.

Mr Mitchell said he experienced no adverse side-affects either.

Immunotherapy has started to replace chemotherapy in treating melanoma.

Director of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute Jonathon Cebon said immunotherapy is also likely to replace chemotherapy in cases of lung, stomach and bladder cancers.

AFL player Jarryd Roughead is being treated with Keytruder for recurring melanoma and former Melbourne lord mayor Ron Walker had his cancer cured with the same drug.

Keytruder is one of many immune-activating drugs and is the first to be approved by the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits scheme.

Two top US cancer researchers also presented early discoveries on immunotherapy during the conference.

Dean of New York's Cornell University Laurie Glimcher has made what she described as an early discovery of a gene that allows ovarian cancer cells to evade the immune system.

Center for Cancer Research chief Jay Berzofsky is also leading research into vaccines to target prostate and other cancers.

"In many types of cancer, there aren't good responses because rather than having an immune response that has been suppressed, the immune system just doesn't see the cancer," Prof Berzofsky told reporters.

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