Beware the hype: Top scientists cautious about fighting cancer with immunotherapy

NEW YORK – There has been a lot of enthusiasm for Immunotherapy as a tool for treat cancer.

“Be critical,” said Dr. Philip Greenberg, University of Washington, who is also scientific co-founder of Juno Therapeutics, one of the companies leading search for treatments immune-based cancer. “Do not believe everything you hear.”

Although progress towards harnessing the immune system to attack tumors has been “huge” he said, his laboratory and many others are seeing more and more studies – in laboratory mice and patients – that “immuno-oncology” will not be so simple as the stimulation of T to attack tumors cells.

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For example, “we are seeing relapses despite” that T cells have invaded a tumor and targeted molecules in malignant cells, Greenberg said, who is also the head of immunology at the Center for Cancer Research Fred Hutchinson. And in an early stage clinical trial for acute myeloid leukemia, there was no improvement in survival, even when the immune systems of patients seemed to be attacking their malignant blood cells.

In some cases, tumors morpho so that the target T-cells have to locate fades. And when the T cells kill tumor cells, cancer cells release potassium – which in turn destroys T cells and prevents them from going after additional tumor cells. Tumors can also send “inhibitory signals” that close the T cells, he said.

Among the severe side effects immunotherapy treatments also remain a challenge.

Greenberg spoke at the International Conference on Cancer Immunotherapy second place here in New York City.

The difficulties facing hitches mirror immunotherapy in previous approaches “revolutionary” to the fight against cancer.

biologists discovered how to use cancer drugs like Avastin to block the growth of tumors of the blood supply they need to survive, in a technique called anti-angiogenesis. However, tumors then discovered another way to grow blood supplies, with the result that many patients relapse and die, having earned little or no additional weeks of life.

In another vaunted technique, drugs knock out molecules that drive the growth and proliferation of malignant cells. molecular targeted therapy His name and works as advertised :. Drugs make clear the molecules that drive growth – but, again, find tumors a new way to grow

There have been, of course, some avant-garde successes, such as Keytruda drugs (which helped advanced melanoma Jimmy Carter in remission ), along with Opdivo and Yervoy.

However, frustrations in creating effective immunotherapy consistently led a leading cancer researcher refer this month to the “illusion of precision oncology.”

cancer biologists pursuing ways to design the immune system to attack tumors are well aware that tumor cells react to the treatment of very complicated forms that often frustrated the best ideas. But of the 1,460 (and counting) scientists from academia, government and industry at the meeting in New York, more than 700 are in the industry – an indication of how fast they are trading fairly recent advances in academic laboratories


is also indicative of the optimism that despite these setbacks, eventually immunotherapy will work for many types of cancer and many patients.

“We have gathered some of the brightest minds in the field,” said Dr. Margaret Foti, CEO of the American Association for Cancer Research, one of the four non-profit sponsors of the meeting.

Being realistic about how immunotherapy may fail, researchers, which can make it work for more and more patients say.

Greenberg said astronaut stranded Matt Damon in the film “Marciano” in explaining how his team hopes to overcome obstacles “. Let science fuck out of it”

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