“As never before, we have the ability to develop novel, targeted, less-toxic therapies that are really built upon our understanding of molecular biology and immunology,” says medical oncologist Clifford Hudis in a video interview. Dr. Hudis is Chief of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Breast Cancer Medicine Service and President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world’s leading professional organization for cancer researchers and physicians.
In the last two years, researchers have made significant progress in using immunotherapies — drugs that manipulate the immune system to fight disease — to treat some of the most intractable types of cancer. One new immunotherapy developed at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, ipilimumab (YervoyTM), was recently shown to be highly effective in shrinking tumors and improving survival for patients with metastatic melanoma.
“It represents a translational science success,” says Dr. Hudis. “Through our understanding of the inner workings of the immune system we’ve been able to develop targeted treatments that are effective.”
Building on this success, cancer researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and elsewhere are working to broaden the use of immunotherapy as a treatment for many other, more common types of cancer, including breast cancer.