Live from ASCO: The Immunotherapy Revolution

June 4, 2017 | by Cary A. Presant, M.D.

Presant-Cary Cary A. Presant, M.D.
Here at ASCO 2017 in Chicago, we’ve been hearing about promising new clinical trials that have shown that immunotherapy can control some of the most resistant cancers.
 
That’s exciting for several reasons. First, Immunotherapy does not have the same side effects as chemotherapy (although it can have serious side effects of its own). Using such drugs as pembrolizumab, nivolumab, avelumab, durvalumab or atezolimumab can even shrink tumors that have become resistant to chemotherapy.
 
The latest data presented at ASCO have also demonstrated the benefits of combining different immunotherapies – and of combining immunotherapy with chemotherapy.
 
Then there’s ipilimumab, which can increase the cure rate of aggressive melanomas. And new data have shown remarkable remissions in resistant blood malignancies like leukemia, multiple myeloma and lymphoma using CAR-T cells. CAR-T cell therapy works with immune cells taken from patient’s bloodstream, which are reprogrammed to recognize and attack tumors, then reintroduced into the patient.
 
Here are five things to think about as you develop your own cancer treatment plan.
  • Always ask if there is an immunotherapy treatment for your illness.
  • Ask if immunotherapy is better than other treatments.
  • Ask about the side effects of any treatment, whether it’s immunotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, biological therapy or radiation therapy.
  • Ask if there is an immunotherapy clinical trial available for your condition.
  • If your doctor does not know, ask for a second opinion at a center that is conducting clinical trials for your condition. See my book “Surviving American Medicine” for advice on second opinions and clinical trials. City of Hope has many immunotherapy trials that could help.
     
Cary A. Presant, M.D., is physician in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research at City of Hope. He has been a practicing hematologist and medical oncologist in Southern California since 1979. 
 
 

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