What’s the Latest in Immunotherapy for Gynecologic Cancers?

Because cancer cells are smart enough to disguise themselves and escape the typical response of the immune system, immunotherapy seeks to reignite the immune system so that it can recognize and attack these sneaky cells.

In a recent Facebook Live chat, Ursula Matulonis, MD, director of Gynecologic Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, discussed the research advances, relevant clinical trials, and the excitement around the use of immunotherapy and its approaches for treating all gynecologic cancer.

“Immunotherapy has found a real significant role in how we treat cancer, just in the past few years,” says Matulonis.

In gynecologic cancers, immunotherapy is being used in all stages of treatment, and researchers are trying to enhance the effects of different immunotherapy approaches.

“For ovarian cancer, we’ve tested immunotherapy for women who have recurrent ovarian cancer, but now combinations of therapies, such as checkpoint blockades, anti-vascular drugs, and PARP inhibitors – which interfere with DNA repair – are all being tested in the upfront treatment of ovarian cancer,” said Matulonis.

Eligibility for many of these ongoing trials is wide, but there are certain cases in which an overt, clinically active autoimmune disease can interfere with a patient’s cell response to immunotherapy. New research coming out of Dana-Farber is exploring neoantigen vaccines, which, combined with checkpoint inhibitors, exploit the new proteins cancer cells create. This research is also being conducted all around the country.

Matulonis also discussed immunotherapy’s side effects, as well as how it differs from chemotherapy. Because immunotherapy drugs are meant to stimulate the immune system, patients can experience inflammation of the lungs, called pneumonitis, inflammation of the liver, rash, and endocrine problems. Matulonis emphasized the importance of anticipating these side effects with a team of physicians who have expertise in these areas.

Learn more about immunotherapy advances in the treatment of ovarian cancer.

2 responses to “What’s the Latest in Immunotherapy for Gynecologic Cancers?

  1. Is there any studies on inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor? So far it has destroyed by bladder and uterus. My oncologist said it is eroding my cervix. It has also destroyed my one kidney. It took John Hopkins university to diagnosis the tumor. The only treatment I had was the surgery. My oncologist and urologist had never seen anything like it. My oncologist has be practicing for over 25 in Hershey Medical center.. He said once it has spread there is nothing they can do.

    1. Hi Ericia,

      Apologies for the delay in response. Unfortunately, we cannot give medical advice through this blog or without a consultation.

      If you are interested in making an appointment at Dana-Farber, I have provided some information below:
      If you are able to travel to Boston to meet with our treatment team, please call 877-442-3324 or fill out the online appointment request form located on our website here: https://www.dana-farber.org/request-an-appointment/ Once you begin the process of making an appointment for a new patient, you will be able to address specific questions with a new patient coordinator, and furthermore with the treatment team.
      If you are not able to travel to Boston to meet with the treatment team, Dana-Farber offers the Online Second Opinion Program, which allows patients to get an expert second opinion from a Dana-Farber oncologist, without traveling to Boston. The Online Second Opinion program is secure, convenient, and confidential. The entire process is conducted online – including collecting records – helping to avoid disruptions to one’s regular schedule, while also saving on travel and lodging costs in Boston. You can learn more about our second opinion program located on our website here: http://www.dana-farber.org/appointments-and-second-opinions/online-second-opinion-program/

      We are wishing you all the best,
      DFCI

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