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Dr. Formenti on the Role of the Immune System in Cancer Treatment

Silvia Chiara Formenti, MD, chair, Department of Radiation Oncology, Weill Cornell, associate director, Meyer Cancer Center, radiation oncologist-in-chief, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, discusses the role of the immune system in cancer treatment.

Silvia Chiara Formenti, MD, chair, Department of Radiation Oncology, Weill Cornell, associate director, Meyer Cancer Center, radiation oncologist-in-chief, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, discusses the role of the immune system in cancer treatment.

A crucial part of a patient’s response to treatment is the recovery of the immune system, Formenti says. The recent rise of immune checkpoint inhibitors has been effective in addressing this. In tumors that are highly immunogenic, like melanoma, it seems to be sufficient to just correct the immune system of the patient. This is based on the rationale that a patient’s immune system has seen the tumor develop, and has allowed this to happen. A very basic concept is that the immune system is the patient’s best fighter of cancer because it can recognize transformed cells and eliminate them.

For the time patients have established tumors, the cancer cells have grown, become more invasive, and more symptomatic. At this point, there is some degree of evasion from the immune system. Immune checkpoint blockade, Formenti says, has opened the way to a patient responding to his or her own cancer.

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