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New System for Treating Cancer Seen as Hopeful

New System for Treating Cancer Seen as Hopeful | Melanoma Dispatch | Scoop.it

"Drugs that unleash the body’s immune system to combat tumors could allow patients with advanced melanoma to live far longer than ever before, researchers gathered at the nation’s largest cancer conference say.


“ 'It’s a completely different world for patients with metastatic melanoma, to talk about the majority of patients being alive for years rather than weeks or months,' said Dr. Jedd D. Wolchok, a melanoma specialist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, interviewed at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology here."


Editor's note: This is a good exploration of immunotherapy treatments for melanoma; immunotherapy for lung cancer is also discussed.

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The New York Times  |  Jun 2, 2014

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The New York Times  |  Jun 2, 2014

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T-cell Changes: Why Only Some Respond to Ipilimumab

"The immunotherapy ipilimumab (Yervoy, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company) works amazingly well in some patients, hardly at all in others. A groundbreaking study that used deep sequencing techniques offers some clues as to why.


"Ipilimumab, which is marketed for melanoma but is being explored in several other cancer types, including prostate cancer, acts as a checkpoint blocker by inhibiting cytotoxic T lymphocyte– associated antigen–4 (CTLA-4).


"Immune repertoire sequencing has confirmed that blocking CTLA-4 increased turnover and diversity of the T-cell repertoire in some patients with advanced prostate cancer or metastatic melanoma, but also showed that patients who survived longest maintained clones of high-frequency T-cells they had developed before starting treatment."


Editor's note: Ipilimumab is a drug that boosts a patient's own immune system to fight cancer. It works by activating immune system cells called T cells, some subtypes of which may then attack tumors. Ipilimumab works very well for some patients, but not for others. This study found that patients who had certain tumor-fighting T cell subtypes already present before ipilimumab treatment were more likely to respond well and survive longer, possibly because these cells were readily available to fight cancer upon activation. The study also found that ipilimumab may prompt the immune system to "re-shuffle" the body's T cell subtypes, allowing patients with only a small amount of tumor-fighting T cells to generate more. (This may explain why some patients take longer to respond to ipilimumab than others; their immune systems need more time to build up the right T cells.) Based on the results, doctors may be able to monitor a patient's T cell subtypes ("immune repertoire sequencing") to determine whether ipilimumab will work, or to keep tabs on the effectiveness of ongoing ipilimumab treatment.

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Medscape  |  May 28, 2014

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Medscape  |  May 28, 2014

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Infecting Just One Tumor with a Virus Could Boost the Systemic Effectiveness of Cancer Immunotherapy

Infecting Just One Tumor with a Virus Could Boost the Systemic Effectiveness of Cancer Immunotherapy | Melanoma Dispatch | Scoop.it

"A Ludwig Cancer Research study suggests that the clinical efficacy of checkpoint blockade, a powerful new strategy to harness the immune response to treat cancers, might be dramatically improved if combined with oncolytic virotherapy, an investigational intervention that employs viruses to destroy tumors.


"Published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the study evaluated a combination therapy in which the Newcastle disease virus (NDV), a bird virus not ordinarily harmful to humans, is injected directly into one of two melanoma tumors implanted in mice, followed by an antibody that essentially releases the brakes on the immune response. The researchers report that the combination induced a potent and systemically effective anti-tumor immune response that destroyed the non-infected tumor as well. Even tumor types that have hitherto proved resistant to checkpoint blockade and other immunotherapeutic strategies were susceptible to this combined therapy."


Editor's Note: This story is about research that was performed in mice. For that reason, we cannot say whether similar results would happen for humans. However, viruses like the one explored here are already being used in people. To learn more about immunotherapy—cancer treatments that use the immune system to fight tumors—visit our Melanoma Basics.

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Medical Xpress  |  Mar 5, 2014

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Long-Term Results Encouraging for Combination Immunotherapy for Advanced Melanoma

Long-Term Results Encouraging for Combination Immunotherapy for Advanced Melanoma | Melanoma Dispatch | Scoop.it

"The first long-term follow-up results from a phase 1b immunotherapy trial combining drugs for advanced melanoma patients has shown encouraging results—long-lasting with high survival rates—researchers report. First author Mario Sznol, M.D., professor of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center, is presenting the updated data at the 2014 annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.


"Sznol, clinical research leader of the melanoma research program at Yale Cancer Center, was the senior author on the original study of combination immunotherapy that was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at ASCO in 2013. Jedd Wolchok, M.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was first author of the earlier study, and senior author of this updated research."


Editor's note: Immunotherapy treatments boost a patient's own immune system to fight cancer. This story describes a promising treatment that combines two immunotherapy drugs: nivolumab and ipilimumab (Yervoy).

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Medical Xpress  |  Jun 2, 2014

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At Last, Success Seen in Fighting Cancer with the Immune System

At Last, Success Seen in Fighting Cancer with the Immune System | Melanoma Dispatch | Scoop.it

"Fundamental research -- much of it done in Boston -- has led to a shift in the scientific strategy for fighting some cancers, toward using drugs to activate a patient’s own immune system. An approach that was on the fringes of cancer therapy is suddenly the hottest trend in cancer drug development. On Monday, for example, Boston researchers presented data showing that nearly half of patients with advanced melanoma lived for two years after getting an experimental immune therapy called nivolumab, though multiple other therapies hadn’t worked for them. And drug companies have announced several deals recently to acquire companies developing immunotherapies. The frenzy of activity is an abrupt change for a field that had made big promises but failed to deliver for years."

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The Boston Globe  |  Mar 10, 2014

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Killing Cancer through the Immune System

Killing Cancer through the Immune System | Melanoma Dispatch | Scoop.it

"The immune system has this blind spot by design – an immune system that has an ability to attack itself leads to autoimmune diseases, so as protection, it screens out its own tissue.


"For decades, scientists assumed that cancer was beyond the reach of the body's natural defenses. But after decades of skepticism that the immune system could be trained to root out and eliminate these malignant cells, a new generation of drugs is proving otherwise.


"The treatment consists of infusing antibodies that enhance the immune system to recognize cancer cells and attack it. What's more, since the immune system has a built-in memory, it continues to go after cancer cells, so the response can be longer lasting and more complete.


"The trick is that this treatment doesn't work for everybody, and researchers don't yet understand why. But when it does work, the results have been particularly impressive."

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Medical Xpress  |  Feb 4, 2014

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