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A study led by Cedars-Sinai Cancer, US has found that a combination of immunotherapy, chemotherapy and an anti-inflammatory drug may improve the immune response in patients by activating cells to muscle-invasive bladder cancer.

The study, which was published in Nature Communications, found that the combined use of the chemotherapy drugs gemcitabine and cisplatin is unable to activate a patient’s own immune response to cancer.

They also found that chemotherapy prompts the overwhelming release of an inhibitory signal that suppresses an immune response by counteracting “go” signals. When the investigators added the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib to gemcitabine to remove the brake, they were able to shift the balance toward the “go” signals, improving the immune response in laboratory mice.

Building on those findings, the researchers discovered a mechanism that may drive the immune-dampening effect of chemotherapy and determined how to counteract it, therefore activating a longer-lasting immune response.

Current chemotherapy drugs have failed to cause immunogenic cell death which instructs the immune cells to kill cancer cells. Immunotherapy drugs have recently been added to help a patient’s own immune cells to attack cancer, but the respond rates are low.