June is Cancer Immunotherapy Awareness Month, at least as declared by the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and the New York State Assembly. What better time to become educated on immunotherapy and the ways it may change both treatment and outcomes for cancer care. The words of one cancer researcher reminds us, “It is always ten years too soon to get diagnosed with cancer”; breakthroughs being too slow and rare especially for those of us with advanced disease. But there are reasons to believe that immunotherapy may provide positive changes for cancer care in the very near future. Increasingly, Phase One trials are showing high response rates in a range of cancers with a range of immunotherapy approaches.
Many people rightfully worry that a Phase One trial means that the approach is just being tried on people as compared to the poor mice. This can be true. It is also true that Phase One trials often build on other Phase One trials creating a thoughtful process of incrementally testing new therapies on humans. There are risks but the risks when taking on experimentation with immunotherapy are different then the risks in testing a brand new chemotherapy drug. Chemotherapy harms the body while trying to tame cancer. Immunotherapy’s approach, though, is training up new skills in the immune system – maybe the lessons will take, maybe not but little damage should happen in the effort.
Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C), funds Dream Teams among the top researchers in different arenas of cancer research. They aim to improve the pace of breakthroughs by funding collaborations. One of these teams focuses on immunology. This infusion of dollars from the entertainment industry and grassroots is valuable at a time when congress is forcing significant cutbacks and uncertainty in cancer research. Almost every cancer has an immunotherapy approach being tested.
If you know someone with advanced cancer, even in remission, now is a great time to share this link – they match people up with prospective trials for them to consider. http://www.cancerresearch.org/cancer-immunotherapy/clinical-trial-finder
To learn more about the experiments in motion from the experts themselves you can find a roster of recent webinars hosted by CRI to celebrate this month of awareness.
Let’s kick off a period of good news in cancer treatment. PLEASE NOTE: At the close of 2014, Stand Up to Cancer announced the establishment of a Dream Team for Ovarian Cancer. Go team go!