Two new studies reveal inroads against rare and intractable tumors.In immunotherapy, T-cells from a cancer patient can be genetically engineered to be specific to a tumor. Dendritic cells (lower left) are special cells that help the immune system recognize the cancer cells and initiate a response. Drugs called “checkpoint inhibitors” also can spur the immune system. (Science Source)
NEW ORLEANS — New immunotherapy drugs are showing significant and extended effectiveness against a broadening range of cancers, including rare and intractable tumors often caused by viruses. Researchers say these advances suggest the treatment approach is poised to become a critical part of the nation’s anti-cancer strategy.
Scientists reported Tuesday on two new studies showing that the medications, which marshal the body’s own immune defenses, are now having some effect against recurrent, difficult-to-treat head and neck cancer and an extremely lethal skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma. The diseases can be caused by viruses as well as DNA mutations, and the data show that the drugs help the immune system to recognize and attack cancers resulting from either cause.