Year 2014: breakthrough in Immunotherapy

scinetisBy Elizabeth Hayes

Fighting Cancer is the most important need of the current era. Thousand of people die every year due to this cruel disease. However scientists are fighting to defeat cancer.

Anyhow, the journal Science has identified immunotherapy as the Breakthrough of the Year, and although the accompanying article doesn’t name Providence Cancer Center specifically, the Portland-based center is a leader in the field.

Immunotherapy, which takes advantage of a patient’s own immune system to battle tumors, is the sole focus of Providence’s cancer research. Immunotherapy activates a patient’s immune system in a way that allows it to target and eradicate cancer cells, while minimizing damage to normal tissue.

It’s the fourth method of fighting cancer, the other three being chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Providence has been engaged in immunotherapy for the last 18 years. It has trials going on currently in brain, breast, pancreatic, prostate, lung and skin cancer.
Providence has four classes of compounds in clinical trials, including one on “checkpoint inhibitors,” which involves taking away inhibiting signals that turn off the immune system, and another on vaccines that educate the immune system to recognize a patient’s cancer, said Dr. Bernard Fox, chief of laboratory and molecular and tumor immunology at Providence Cancer Center.

A study published recently in the journal Cancer Research found that 12 of 30 patients in a Providence study with a variety of late-stage, invasive cancers saw positive results after a cycle of treatment with the OX40 antibody.

The Science story on immunotherapy pondered whether the future of cancer immunotherapy was too uncertain to be named as “breakthrough of the year.”
“Ultimately, we concluded, cancer immunotherapy passes the test. It does so because this year, clinical trials have cemented its potential in patients and swayed even the skeptics,” the story reads.
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