Public Release: 

Immune-boosting antibody combination could improve lymphoma survival

Cancer Research UK

Combining two different immunotherapy treatments could dramatically improve lymphoma survival, according to a Cancer Research UK funded study published in Cancer Cell today (Thursday).

Researchers from the University of Southampton tested different combinations of antibodies* in the lab to see how they interact with each other and what effect this has on how the immune system fights cancer.

They found one combination - anti-CD27 and anti-CD20 - greatly increased life expectancy in mice with cancer. While most of the mice given just one of the antibodies died within 80 days, nearly all mice given both antibodies survived beyond 100 days.**

When combined, the researchers found the antibodies recruit greater numbers of immune cells called myeloid cells, as well as increasing their ability to destroy cancer cells.

As a direct result of this study, the combination will now be tested in patients as part of a clinical trial funded by Cancer Research UK.***

Dr Sean Lim, a Cancer Research UK clinician scientist at the University of Southampton, said: "By combining two specific antibodies - anti-CD27 and anti-CD20 - we've increased the ability of the immune system to destroy cancer cells.

"It's very exciting to see that this drug combination has an impact on survival of mice with lymphoma, as improvements in treatment are urgently needed. The next stage will be to see if what we've discovered can be replicated in patients."

Professor Karen Vousden, Cancer Research UK's chief scientist, said: "This study greatly increases our understanding of how different immunotherapies can work together to improve the way we treat lymphoma.

"By testing this approach in a clinical trial we will see if this promising research will translate into benefit for patients."


For media enquiries contact Kathryn Ingham in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 5475 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

Notes to editor:

Lim, S, H., et al., Antibody tumour targeting is enhanced by CD27 agonists through myeloid recruitment. Cancer Cell. DOI: 10.1016/j.ccell.2017.11.001

Post embargo link:

*Researchers tested a variety of combinations of 'tumour targeting' monoclonal antibodies and 'immunomodulatory' monoclonal antibodies. They showed that anti-CD27, an immunomodulatory monoclonal antibody, enhanced anti-CD20 (tumour targeting) therapy in various preclinical models.

**Median survival for mice given anti-CD20 therapy ranged between 24 and 49 days. Median survival for mice given anti-CD27 therapy ranged between 49 and 79 days. When given the drug in combination, almost all mice survived until they were euthanized at 100 days.

***Based on these data, a phase 2, multicentre clinical trial will test the combination of rituximab and varililumab in patients with relapsed and/or refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

About Cancer Research UK

* Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.

* Cancer Research UK's pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.

* Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on vital donations from the public.

* Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.

* Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK's ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.

* Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.

* Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

About the University of Southampton

Building on its cancer immunology research expertise and recent successes in immunotherapy trials, the University of Southampton has launched a major fundraising campaign to raise £25m to open the UK's first dedicated Centre for Cancer Immunology at Southampton General Hospital. The Centre will be the first of its kind in the UK and will bring together world-leading specialists in a unique state-of-the art centre. The aim of the new Centre is to accelerate research progress, conduct more clinical trials and save more lives from cancer. Find out more about it at

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