Since the modern era of anticancer immunotherapy began about four years ago, a variety of strategies to awaken the patient’s own defenses against tumor cells have been reported. The checkpoint blockade approach, pioneered with ipilimumab (Yervoy) and now with the PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors, have taken center stage in this unfolding story.
That stage is becoming much more crowded—and that is good news indeed.
, we explore an exciting modality that is shaping up as an immunotherapy star. That modality, described in our cover story “Bringing CARs to Market
,” involves genetically engineered chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies. CARs may someday emerge as a significant method of treating patients with hematologic malignancies and perhaps even individuals with solid tumors.
Thus far, several different CAR agents in development have demonstrated remarkable complete remission rates among patients with B-cell malignancies who have received the therapies in early clinical trials. These successes have been achieved among individuals who have truly run out of options, often after many rounds of prior therapies.
Translating these early successes into broad clinical practice will not be easy. Oncology researchers must create a sustainable model for the tremendously complex task of manufacturing the agents, and they must also determine how best to administer the drugs so that patients’ bodies are not overwhelmed by the influx of engineered T cells.
Of course, it takes years of hard work to achieve these types of successes. Some of the CAR researchers we interviewed have been working for more than a decade on agents that have just recently gained attention.
One CAR researcher, Steven A. Rosenberg, MD, PhD, has spent much of his 40- year career pursuing immunotherapies. Elsewhere, we feature a profile of Rosenberg
, who is among the inaugural winners of our Giants of Cancer Care awards. It is entirely fitting that the bedrock principle upon which Rosenberg’s success is built is one of hard work—and that now we are seeing the fruits not only of his hard work but also of the efforts of researchers throughout the CAR field.
We hope you enjoy reading these articles. Please let us know what you would like to know about this emerging form of therapy as it develops.