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Innovative Immunotherapy: A Focus On The Future Of Cancer Treatment

June 14, 2023

As cancer treatment evolves, researchers are discovering that treatment is becoming less about the type of cancer and more about creating tailored treatment plans unique to the genetic makeup of each patient's specific tumor.

Immunotherapy is an advanced form of targeted cancer therapy that boosts the body's own immune system and defense mechanisms to fight cancer at the cellular level. Different from traditional cancer treatments that target the cells in tumors, immunotherapy boosts the body's immune system to attack cancer cells to stop or slow their growth or limit the cancer's ability to spread.

Dhatri Kodali, M.D., medical oncologist and hematologist at Texas Oncology–Deke Slayton Cancer Center, addresses questions about the importance of cancer research and clinical trials, what the future of cancer treatment may look like, and the role immunotherapy will play.

1) Which cancer types are showing to be the most responsive to immunotherapy?

This list is ever growing thanks to newer clinical trials utilizing immunotherapy in treating several different cancer types. We currently have good data to support the use of immunotherapy in kidney, liver, lung, esophageal, prostate, colon, uterine, head and neck, and gastric cancers, as well as Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma, Merkel cell cancer, mesothelioma, and more.

2) Why is participation in research and clinical trials so important when it comes to immunotherapy? What role did Texas Oncology play in the development of leading immunotherapy drugs such as Opdivo® and Keytruda®?

Participation in cancer research and clinical trials not only helps advance science but also provides access to the newest treatments that are not yet approved and available for use otherwise. Clinical trials may offer hope when we have exhausted our options.

Our physicians and our patients played a key role, bringing clinical trials for many of the latest groundbreaking immunotherapy drugs such as Opdivo® and Keytruda® to the community. These drugs are now approved and widely available for our eligible patients.

3) Is immunotherapy an appropriate treatment option for patients who have an advanced form of cancer?

Yes. Most of the immunotherapeutic agents are now approved in advanced or metastatic cancers. Cancer patients are living longer and tolerating treatments better with fewer side effects while maintaining good quality of life.

4) We hear references to CAR-T therapy when talking about immunotherapy. How are they related?

Chimeric Antigen Receptor — T cell (CAR-T) is a form of immunotherapy that can be customized based on a patient's specific cancer type. It focuses on the T cells which help orchestrate the immune response. The patient's T cells are collected and re-engineered to produce CARs (chimeric antigen receptors) that can recognize and bind on the surface of cancer cells, destroying them. This therapy is currently approved for the treatment of several blood cancers such as certain types of lymphoma and myeloma.

5) What does the future look like for immunotherapy?

I hope this is just the beginning of the new era in the fight against cancer. In the future, we anticipate seeing more effective combinations of immunotherapeutic agents. This will allow for more specific and precise targeting of tumors, reducing the need to use toxic chemotherapeutic agents.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.