One of the most important challenges in cancer immunotherapy is overcoming immune resistance. For example, even with the high response rates seen in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) with CAR – T cell therapy, a significant number of patients relapse after an initial response.
Chinatown, Honolulu 2016
Could immune resistance be reversed or prevented by the addition of appropriate checkpoint blockade? Which ones matter though, that is the critical question? Rather than randomly picking ones to try, we need scientific evidence regarding these choices.
This post explores some of the latest data presented at the BMT Tandem meeting on the role of T cell immunoglobulin mucin–3 (TIM–3) and PD–1 upregulation in causing resistance.
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One interesting aspect of the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting was the surprise many people expressed in conversations that chemotherapy might actually be useful in combination with checkpoint inhibitors.
You see, several years ago when we first started writing about this new class of agents, I remember vividly how quite a few analysts grumbled on social media or sent me snarky personal messages when it was even suggested that this — along with combinations with existing targeted therapies — might be a worthwhile and valid approach to explore. Clearly they believed that immunotherapies (as monotherapy) were going to be the ultimate panacea.
Not so fast…
There are a number of scientific reasons for combination strategies, but not everyone thinks rationally when new approches come along and their attititude is often ‘out with the old, in with the new!’ It was actually quite amusing to see some of the very same folks in Chicago now eulogising the combination of checkpoint blockade with… chemotherapy in lung, colorectal or even bladder cancer.
One reason why these traditional therapies may be important is because they can influence the tumour microenvironment in both positive and negative ways. That can be helpful for deciding on rational future combinations, rather than just throwing mud at the wall and hoping based on a limited set of data.
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