Cancer Immunotherapy: Taking Aim with Neoantigens

It’s a compelling idea that has attracted scientists for decades: rather than poison tumors with chemicals and radiation, use a biological agent – a vaccine – to rally the body’s formidable immune defenders to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Yet, even as other forms of immunotherapy are showing promise against some cancers, efforts to … Continued

How Is Immunotherapy Used to Treat Colorectal Cancer?

Cancers of the colon and rectum haven’t yet been as effectively treated with immunotherapy as have melanoma and lung cancer, but researchers are increasingly identifying patients who do appear to benefit from the immunity-boosting drugs – and devising strategies they hope will expand the reach of immunotherapy in colorectal cancers. Read More: Can Coffee Affect … Continued

Catch Me if You Can: Finding Cancer Cells that Hide in Plain Sight

In the high-stakes contest of hide-and-seek between cancer cells and the human immune system, the advantage doesn’t always lie with the body’s defenders. A new approach to treatment, known as CAR T-cell therapy, may shift that balance of power. Cancer cells conceal themselves from the immune system not by barricading themselves in an impenetrable shell, … Continued

What’s the Difference between Chemotherapy Drugs and Antibody Drugs?

Both chemotherapy and antibody agents are used in the treatment of cancer. In its broadest definition, cancer chemotherapy refers to any drug that destroys cancer cells or slows their growth and reproduction. As the “chemo” in their name suggests, however, true chemotherapy agents consist of chemicals that kill fast-growing cancer cells while generally sparing slower-growing … Continued

CAR T-Cell Therapy: How Does It Work?

CAR T-cell therapy is a kind of cellular therapy, which uses a patient’s own immune system cells to rally an attack on cancer. They’re made by removing a specific set of cells from the blood, modifying them in a lab to intensify the immune system’s natural response to cancer, and re-injecting them into the patient. … Continued

How Is Immunotherapy Used to Treat Bladder Cancer?

Although immunotherapy seems like a recent phenomenon, physicians have been using the strategy to treat bladder cancer since 1990, when the BCG vaccine, made from a live but weakened tuberculosis bacilli, was approved for early stage cancer that hasn’t invaded the bladder’s muscular wall. Today, BCG is still the recommended standard of care for high-grade … Continued

A Brain Tumor Kept at Bay by Immunotherapy

It’s 19 months after being diagnosed with the aggressive brain tumor, glioblastoma, and Andrew Wall is itching to go back to work as a police officer. “Sitting around is not my thing,” says Wall, 53, who hasn’t yet been cleared to return to work as a police officer in Monroe, Connecticut – a job he has … Continued

Webchat: The Latest in Brain Tumor Research and Care

In honor of Brain Tumor Awareness Month, David Reardon, MD, and Patrick Wen, MD, of Dana-Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology, went live on Facebook to answer questions about brain cancer. The doctors discussed advice for brain tumor patients, answered audience questions, and described the difference between the two major categories of brain cancers—primary cancer, developed in … Continued

What Is a PD-L1 Test?

A PD-L1 test helps doctors determine whether a patient is likely to benefit from cancer drugs known as immune checkpoint inhibitors. It involves sending a piece of tumor tissue to a lab for analysis. PD-L1 is a protein that allows some cells to escape an attack by the immune system. Extending from the cancer cell surface, … Continued

The Progress of Cancer Immunotherapy: The Tip of the Iceberg

If the human immune system was a powerful racing car, you could say that scientists in the past few years have gained unprecedented control over how to make it accelerate, and what causes it to slow or stop. This knowledge has spawned new immunotherapy drugs that are delivering dramatic benefits to some patients with advanced … Continued

What’s New in Immunotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer?

For patients with advanced head and neck cancers, immune-based therapies have started to show results against these hard-to-treat tumors. Two immunotherapy drugs were approved in 2016 for use when standard treatments failed, and many other agents are being tested in clinical trials. Immunotherapies work by enhancing the body’s natural defenses against malignancies, and have made … Continued

New Immunotherapy Therapy Approved for Lymphoma Patients

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new kind of immunotherapy drug for adults and children with classical Hodgkin lymphoma who have relapsed after three or more prior lines of therapy. The approved drug, pembrolizumab (Keytruda), is part of a class of immunotherapy drugs called checkpoint inhibitors that block the PD-1 protein, which is … Continued

What’s New in Immunotherapy for Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer is one of several cancers that has responded well to immunotherapy drugs, which can free the immune system from restraints that cancer cells can impose on it. The drug nivolumab (Opdivo), for example, which was recently approved, can extend survival in patients with metastatic kidney cancer after other drugs have failed. But can … Continued

What’s New in Immunotherapy and Melanoma? [Webchat]

Cancer immunotherapy is a kind of cancer treatment that mobilizes the patient’s immune defenses to recognize and attack tumor cells. It is now the treatment of choice for many patients with advanced melanoma, according to Elizabeth I. Buchbinder, MD, a melanoma specialist at Dana-Farber. “Immunotherapy has taken off,” Buchbinder says, “There are tons of areas where … Continued

Can a Serum Biomarker Predict Response to Immunotherapy?

This post originally appeared on Cancer Research Catalyst, a blog from the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR). By Srivani Ravoori, PhD Immunotherapy, particularly a class of immunotherapeutics called immune checkpoint inhibitors, has transformed the treatment of several types of cancer in recent years. So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved immune … Continued

Experts Forecast Cancer Research and Treatment Advances in 2017

This post originally appeared on Cancer Research Catalyst, the official blog of the American Association for Cancer Research. It was originally published Jan. 10, 2017. By Srivani Ravoori, PhD As we step into 2017, a big question looming in the minds of all stakeholders in the cancer research arena is: What is the future of … Continued

Can Immunotherapy Help Patients with Pancreatic Cancer?

Patients with pancreatic cancer often ask Dana-Farber’s Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, about immunotherapy, the rising star of cancer treatment that’s making impressive gains against many types of malignancies. Immunotherapy drugs, which mobilize the patient’s immune defenses to recognize and attack tumor cells, have worked against lethal cancers such as melanoma and some lung cancers – … Continued

Use of Immunotherapeutic Expanded to Fifth Type of Cancer

This post originally appeared on Cancer Research Catalyst, the official blog of the American Association of Cancer Research. It was originally published Nov. 15, 2016. By Karen Honey, PhD On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had approved expanding the use of the immunotherapeutic nivolumab (Opdivo) to include the treatment … Continued

What Is Combination Therapy?

Combination therapy, the use of more than one type of therapy in treating a patient, is a hallmark of cancer treatment. The complexity of the disease – its tendency to spread beyond its original site and become resistant to certain drugs, and its genetic diversity – underscores the need for a variety of approaches to … Continued