Nivolumab is a medicinal product that is being developed for the adjuvant treatment (after the primary treatment) of patients with resected oesophageal or gastro-oesophageal junction cancer. Oesophageal develops when abnormal cells in the gullet (oesophagus) grow in an uncontrolled way. The lower end of the oesophagus that joins the stomach is called the gastro oesophageal junction. Gastro oesophageal junction (GOJ) cancer develops at the point where the gullet joins the stomach, and is considered a separate type of cancer.
Nivolumab is a type of immunotherapy that is currently licensed in the UK for the treatment of several types of cancers such as melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and kidney cancer. Nivolumab works by improving the activity of a type of white blood cells called T-cells through blocking a protein called programmed death -1 (PD-1) on the surface of T-cells and thereby increasing the ability of the immune system to kill cancer cells. If licensed, nivolumab will offer an adjuvant treatment option for patients with resected oesophageal or GOJ cancer, who currently have few effective adjuvant therapies available.
Nivolumab in combination with cisplatin and fluorouracil is in clinical development for patients with unresectable, advanced, recurrent or metastatic oesophageal squamous cell cancer cell carcinoma. Advanced oesophageal cancer begins in the food pipe and spreads to other parts of the body. Squamous cell cancers develop from the cells that make up the inner lining of the oesophagus. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, persistent acid indigestion or heartburn, weight loss, pain in the throat, and chronic cough. Lifestyle factors are attributed to most oesophageal cancers, including smoking and being overweight.