Any lingering skepticism about immunotherapy as an anticancer strategy appears to have been banished by research presented at the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, with fresh data from several key trials translating into excitement in clinical circles and in the investment arena.
James P. Allison, PhD
“There is a great sense of gratification because for many, many years I’ve had the conviction that despite what seemed to be frustrations, there was a way of getting it to work if we just studied mechanisms enough,” said James P. Allison, PhD, whose research led to the FDA’s approval of ipilimumab in 2011, in an interview. “I think that these advances show that it really can work, and I think offer a great opportunity for saving a lot of lives.”
Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD
Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City who presented the nivolumab/ipilimumab combination research, is similarly optimistic.
“For those of us who have been investigating means to use the immune system to treat cancer for decades, this is a glorious time,” said Wolchok. “We now have multiple medicines which are very precisely designed to interact with different on and off systems that the immune system uses to control T cells and antibodies. We’re now seeing the benefits with significant numbers of patients having very durable regressions.”
Many Therapies Under Study
More than 30 clinical trials involving nearly as many immunotherapy agents have reached the phase III stage, according to the Cancer Research Institute, a New York City nonprofit that provides funding to scientists in the field.
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