The majority of patients do not respond to cancer immunotherapy. That’s a fact. If you don’t have an immune response to start with, there’s no point giving a checkpoint inhibitor on its own because there are no T cells present in the tumor.
Dr Bernie Fox (@BernardAFox), a world leading cancer immunotherapy expert from Earle Chiles Research Institute in Portland, nailed this a year ago on the Novel Targets Podcast:
“What I teach the first year medical students is that if you have metastatic cancer, the only thing that makes a difference in your life is whether you’ve got your immune system turned on. If it’s not turned on, it doesn’t make a difference what you get, chemo, radiation, surgery, you aren’t going to do well.”
As we have seen with targeted therapies, drugs can also stop working as a result of acquired resistance. This is also true with cancer immunotherapy treatment. Cancer constantly evolves and finds ways to bypass or evade detection or ways to kill it.
Faced with a complex jigsaw where we only have some of the pieces in place and an evil double sided version as a model for sneaky advanced cancers, where are we in overcoming cancer immunotherapy resistance?
At the recent AACR annual meeting we spoke with a rising star – an up and coming thought leader in the field of cancer immunotherapy who has taken all the disparate information out there and come up with a perspective on where the field is at and where it needs to go.
Jason Luke MD FACP (@jasonlukemd) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago where, as a medical oncologist, he leads multiple early stage cancer immunotherapy drug development trials and treats patients with melanoma.
Working with colleagues such as Dr Tom Gajewski, he has a unique perspective on cancer immunotherapy resistance, and how to overcome this. Dr Luke kindly spoke to BSB in Washington DC.
This is the 3rd post in our series of expert interviews from AACR17.