There has been a lot of enthusiasm in the immuno-oncology space since ASCO about the possibility of combining a checkpoint inhibitor with an immune stimulator.  There are several ideas behind this approach since:

a) Not all patients respond to checkpoint inhibitors
b) Some patients only partially respond, although they can achieve an attenuated response before relapsing

An important question in many people’s mind is what is different about these subsets of patients compared to exceptional responders? How can we change that situation for the better?

Two approaches that have been mooted of late include the following:

  • Using a cancer vaccine to ‘prime’ the tumour
  • Combining a checkpoint inhibitor with an antibody agonist to stimulate the immune system

CrowdAt SITC in Maryland this weekend, there were plenty of packed presentations and discussions on both of these classes of agents, so this is a good time to explore the idea of immune stimulators further based on the latest data we heard.

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