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 … Read more

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, … Read more

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 … Read more

How Is Immunotherapy Used to Treat Bladder Cancer?

Treatments that improve the immune system’s ability to recognize and kill cancer cells are known as immunotherapy. For certain patients with advanced bladder cancer, immunotherapy is proving effective, and several immunotherapy drugs are approved for use in such patients. Currently approved treatments A checkpoint inhibitor is a drug — often made of antibodies — that … Read more

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 … Read more

What Is PD-L1?

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. What is PD-L1? PD-L1 is a protein that allows some cells to escape an attack by the immune system. Extending from the … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 – … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

Immunotherapy Beats Chemotherapy for Advanced Bladder Cancer Patients

The immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is the first therapy of any kind to improve survival in patients whose metastatic bladder cancer worsened after treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy. Keytruda proved so much better than chemotherapy in this “second-line” use that an international clinical trial was halted when the advantage became apparent. “This is very good news; … Read more