Immunotherapy advances offer new hope for cancer patients

Across the country, there have been several success stories of cancers previously thought to be untreatable going into remission after immunotherapy treatment.

Across the country, there have been several success stories of cancers previously thought to be untreatable going into remission after immunotherapy treatment. Among them are a 42-year-old woman with recurrent metastatic melanoma and a 6-year-old girl with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“Historically, melanoma and kidney cancer were believed to be the tumors that were responsive to immunotherapy,” said Michael A. Postow, M.D., assistant attending physician, medical oncology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “Now we are seeing excellent effects of immunotherapy not only in these diseases, but also in lung cancer, bladder cancer, head and neck cancers and others.”

Immunotherapy strengthens the body’s disease-fighting immune system and trains it to recognize and destroy cancer cells. According to Dr. Postow, immunotherapy works through many mechanisms, but all methods are intended to increase the ability of T cells and other immune system cells to destroy tumors. With the promising results achieved thus far, immunotherapy is expected to become a central part of care for many types of cancer.

Dr. Postow believes the most encouraging aspect of immunotherapy is that if an excellent response is achieved, the benefits can be long-lasting.

“Overall survival is being improved by a number of these strategies, when improving overall survival had been very difficult to achieve in the past,” he said.

Originally discovered in 1891, it took more than a century of research before immunotherapy clinical trials were approved, and even longer before immunotherapeutic drugs were successfully used to subdue cancer into remission. The treatment isn’t always successful and may cause side effects, but it definitely shows great promise.

“I think working with patients with cancer and families who are fighting alongside their loved ones is the greatest inspiration to be part of this field,” Dr. Postow said. “I’m so glad new treatments are helping patients more and more, but until we have a cure for everyone, more work and research must be done.”

Learn more about cancer immunotherapy by attending a free lecture presented by Dr. Postow. To register, call (502) 629-1234, option 2.

19th Gail Klein Garlove Lectureship
Putting Cancer ‘In Check’ Through Immunotherapy
Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014

5:30 p.m.: Information fair, registration and hors d’oeuvres
6:30 p.m.: Welcome and program
The Olmsted ▪ 3701 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, Kentucky

Guest faculty
Michael A. Postow, M.D.
Assistant Attending Physician
Medical Oncology
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York


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