Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Expertise in Cancer Immunotherapy Draws Media Focus at 2014 ASCO Meeting

Pictured: Jedd Wolchok

Jedd Wolchok is interviewed by a news crew at the 50th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

Over the past several days, Memorial Sloan Kettering experts shared their perspectives with major media outlets about updated research on the success of drug-based immunotherapy for treating advanced melanoma and new findings revealing the potential of cell-based immunotherapy in treating advanced cervical cancer.

In television and print interviews, they commented on several studies reported this past weekend at the 50th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) – one of the largest educational and scientific events in the international oncology community.

Drug-Based Immunotherapy in Advanced Melanoma

New data out of ASCO shows that the effects of drug-based immunotherapy can sometimes last for years in patients who were treated for advanced melanoma.

Jedd Wolchok, Chief of our Melanoma Service, was a coauthor on all three of the most important melanoma studies highlighted to media at the meeting.

With immunotherapy, you're treating the patient, and the patient is treating the cancer.
Jedd Wolchok Chief of our Melanoma Service

When discussing the clinical trials with The Wall Street Journal, he commented, “This field has spent several decades figuring out better ways to treat the cancer, and very important accomplishments have been made. We now have a way to treat the patient as well. With immunotherapy, you’re treating the patient, and the patient is treating the cancer.”

“It’s a completely different world for patients with metastatic melanoma, to talk about the majority of patients being alive for years rather than weeks or months,” Dr. Wolchok added in an interview with the New York Times.

And researchers are hopeful that melanoma is only the first cancer to be successfully treated as a result of research in this growing field. In fact, Memorial Sloan Kettering investigators presented early research that various drug-based immunotherapy agents appear safe and active in several other cancers, including non-small cell lung cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, and other solid tumors.

Dr. Wolchok told that the results presented this year reinforce “the idea that immunotherapy is not a treatment for just one or two diseases, it can be applied in numerous diseases.”

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Cell-Based Immunotherapy in Advanced Cervical Cancer

Another new immunotherapy study presented this year involved adoptive T cell therapy for advanced cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Researchers at the National Cancer Institute took tumor samples from nine women with advanced cervical cancer and extracted T cells that target the HPV virus. They multiplied the T cells in the lab, and then injected billions of them back into the women. In one woman, the tumor shrank significantly; two of the women are now cancer-free.

Renier Brentjens, Director of Cellular Therapeutics at Memorial Sloan Kettering, treats leukemia patients with genetically re-engineered T cells and told Reuters, “This is yet another example of a successful application of adoptive T cell immunotherapy, now in the realm of solid tumors, such as cervical cancers. We’re starting to see that T cells, if properly targeted, can eradicate incurable metastatic cancers.”

This report gives hope that there “may be a way to treat where standard chemotherapies have failed and maybe replace chemotherapies some day,” he added in an article published on

“This is building on new knowledge about how the immune system works. We now have several approaches that are showing these dramatic results,” Michel Sadelain, Director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Cell Engineering, told Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s Chief Medical Editor, for a story on NBC Nightly News.

“Our T cells keep us alive every day. They protect us from invaders. Invaders could be viruses, bacteria, parasites, and we don’t realize that they play also a big role in fighting off cancer cells,” Dr. Sadelain explained further in a story on

“We can’t call it a cure yet. We need time, but complete remission means complete disappearance of the tumor,” he added in an interview with WABC-TV.

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Dear Florence, thanks so much for your question. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer to your question. Research into the link between diet and cancer is ongoing, but there are also a number of factors involved in an individual person’s risk for cancer. You can read more on the National Cancer Institute website: We also have some good information about diet on the breast cancer section of our website:

Hi at this time is their any clinical trials for stage 4 colon rectal cancer. (immunotherapy T-cells).

Donna, we do have clinical trials for colorectal cancer designed to stimulate the immune system. You can see a listing of all our clinical trials for colorectal cancer here:…. Contact information is provided for each trial. But you may also want to call one of our appointment specialists at 800-525-2225 during regular business hours to learn more. Thank you for your question.

What clinical trials do you have for stage four leiomyosarcoma with multiple previous chemotherapies? Are there any immune based trials?
Thank you

I was diagnose with stage 4 gastric cancer, I went for surgery to remove the stomach, she went in with camera, but decided to open mi up, but couldn't operate, told me that I will have to go for four circles of chimo, a week ago was my last one, and before doing a PET Scan, the told me, I have to go for two more circles, just to me elegible for a new medicine, I do not feel like I am being treated Farely and truthfully, does the new immunotherapy can work in my case, I am already, getting documentation to transfer to Memorial hospital.

Jose, thank you for reaching out. You mentioned that you are gathering documentation but in the meantime, please call our Physician Referral Service at 800-525-2225 or go to They will be able to tell you more about possible treatment for your cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

My cousin has epithelioid sarcoma that has recently metastasized to her lungs. Two nodules were resected from her lungs but the thoracic surgeon had made remarks that some sort of residual findings (which turned out to be sarcoma) did not look promising and that chemotherapy may be the next step in her treatment. Not quite sure of what her sarcoma will say to her once they meet. I'm also not sure of chemotherapies effectiveness in treatment this specific type of cancer. Are there any soft tissue sarcoma that has metastasized to the lungs clinical trials?

Huy, thank you for reaching out. You can find a list of soft tissue sarcoma clinical trials at Memorials Sloan Kettering at this link:…

If your cousin would like to make an appointment with a Memorial Sloan Kettering physician, please call our Physician Referral Service at 800-525-2225 or go to Thanks for your comment.

Hello, my husband has metastatic kidney cancer and underwent a complete right nephrectomy. For the past 5 years the reoccurrences have been able to be removed with surgery, tumor in right kidney area, left adrenal gland, left neck. Now he has a suspicious tumor on his liver we are getting follow up next month. Do you have any clinical trials for immunotherapy that would be relevant to our situation. I'm afraid we won't be able to cherry pick with these surgeries forever and chemotherapy, radiation doesn't seem to have good outcomes for kidney cancer.

I have a relative diagnosed with a Stage 4 Glioblastoma in the frontal lobe. He had the surgery 2 weeks ago by a renowned surgeon and, while the surgery and recovery went well, the prognosis is (statistically) not optimistic. The patient is in otherwise excellent health (very athletic) so we, like so many others, are struggling with the quest for viable alternatives that can either stop this highly aggressive cancer in its tracks, or present the potential of a longer-term recovery.

Jim, glad to hear that your relative is doing well following the surgery. For your own interest, here is a listing of glioma and glioblastoma clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering…

And here is the US government’s clinical trial listing for glioblastoma:

Thank you for your comment.

How big of deal was it last week when the Phase III trial of nivolumab was closed down due to good results enabling the patients on the chemotherapy arm to cross over and receive nivolumab?
Also, I have read that the PD-1 therapies work better when there is PD-L1 expression. How much of an impact does that have, and is it true that PD-L1 changes depending upon inflammation.
Noted, also, is that Sloan Kettering was a part of this trial. Good work to all involved.

Mary, we asked Dr. Wolchok for comment on your question, and he responds:

It’s always great news when a new therapy shows a definitive response. The PD-L1 expression part is very complex and still being investigated by many folks.

are you doing any work in immunetherapy for ovarian cancer I was diagnosed in 10/07 IIIc and have had 4 reoccurences I had participated in your Avastin trial with Dr. Bell-Mcquinn as first line of tx

I'm hoping this is good news for anal (hpv) cancer as well. I have been struggling with this for nearly 5years, have had the maximum radiation, cyberknife, abdominal resection, and various chemotherapies. Twice I have been declared cancer-free, only to have it re-appear-luckily in the original area - no distant metastasis. Is this immunotherapy applicable ?

Bonnie, thank you for your comment. There appears to be a clinical trial using immunotherapy for HPV-associated anal cancer being conducted by the National Cancer Institute. You can learn more at this link:

Do you have any clinical trials for cholangiocarcinoma stage IV (lung) that has responded moderately to oxalaplatin + 5 FU. However sensory neuropathy is occurring.
Is immunotherapy or targeted therapy available? Who in the GI department would be the doctors to see for cc cancer opinion?

My husband has bile duct cancer. It has spread to his lung. Is there an immunotherapy trial that could help hm??

Cathy, thank you for reaching out. While there do not appear to be any immunotherapy trials currently at MSK for bile duct cancer, we recommend you call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service at 800-4CANCER (800-422-6237) to learn about possible clinical trials elsewhere. To learn more about the CIS, including Live Chat help and how to send them an email message, go to

If you would like to make an appointment with a Memorial Sloan Kettering physician, please call our Physician Referral Service at 800-525-2225 or go to

thank you..... it,s good information

Do you currently have any trials or therapy for metastatic colorectal cancer? My husband is KRAS mutant, NRAS & BRAF wild-type, and MSS. He cannot tolerate standard chemo. He was diagnosed stage 4 (lung mets) in 2008. He's been relatively stable until recently when mets to his trachea, left main stem bronchus, and to T9 were discovered. He is 2 weeks post- radiation treatment and needs systemic therapy ASAP.

My sister is diagnosed with stage 4 LMS. Spread to her lungs, tumers are quite big in size.
Do you have any knowledge about clinical trials in Melbourne/Australia.

Sanjeev, we’re sorry to hear about your sister’s diagnosis. If she would like to find a clinical trial in Australia, we recommend she speak to her local oncologist there, or go to, a database maintained by the US National Institutes of Health that includes trials around the US and the world. Thank you for your comment.

My brother was diagnosed with inoperable bile duct cancer. He's hasn't had his first chemo treatment yet but the cancer is in his liver 9cm and a few lymph nodes and outside his small intestine. They just put in 2 metal stents and they haven't completed staging yet. Do you have any clinical immunotherapy trials or is it too early to inquire? .

Wing, we don’t have any clinical trials currently underway for liver cancer that employ immunotherapy but we are evaluating a number of targeted therapies for liver cancer in clinical trials. If your brother would like to make an appointment for a consultation he can call 800-525-2225 during regular business hours or go to for more information on making an appointment. Thank you for your comment.

My mother is suffering from stage 4 LMS which returned after a tumor removal was performed around 11 years ago. Unfortunately, 1 1/2 years ago metastases have returned and spread. She as well suffers from an autoimmune disease (progressive systemic scleroderma).

1. Are there any trials available?
2. If yes, is an autoimmune disease ALWAYS an exclusion criteria?
3. She resides in Germany - does this exclude her from US based trials?

Dear Florian, we are sorry to hear about your mother’s diagnosis. We have several clinical trials open for people with leiomyeosarcoma, which can be found here:

We welcome patients from other countries who are interested in getting care at MSK: If you have any questions about travelling to MSK for care, or your mother’s eligibility for one of our clinical trials, please contact our International Center at

Thank you for reaching out to us.

Hello! My father was diagnosed with stage 2 cholangiocarcinoma April 2015. He subsequently underwent a Whipple. Unfortunately prior to starting chemo he developed new liver lesions. He was at this time started on chemo. The initial chemo did make the tumor sizes and CA19 numbers decrease initially. However, now the CA19 is increased and the tumor sizes are increasing. So the chemo regimen was changed and he is currently on Xeloda and oxaliplatin. I was reading about Interventional Radiology procedures for liver metastasis and was wondering if he would benefit from this procedure. I was also reading about immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer and was wondering if there are any trials for this treatment for cholangiocarcinoma. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Lisa, MSK doesn’t currently have any trials looking at immunotherapy for cholangiocarcinoma, but you are correct that there are interventional radiology procedures for this type of cancer. If your father would like to make an appointment for a consultation, he can call 800-525-2225 or go to for more information on making an appointment. Thank you for your comment.

Could you please tell me if you have any advanced treatment (and/or trials) for stage 4 stomach cancer - adenocarcinoma of the gastric junction with mets to liver and lungs. Formal dx from the stomach fundus tumor biopsy: adenocarcinoma, moderately differentiated arising in background squamocolumnar junction mucosa.
I there any type of immunotherapy that may be useful?

Hi Linda, we have a number of clinical trials for gastric (stomach) cancer, including some that employ immunotherapy. To see the complete list, you can go to:

If you’re interested in meeting with one of our experts to learn more, you can call 800-525-2225 or go to for more information on making an appointment. Thank you for your comment.

A very close friend of mine living in California was diagnosed with proximal type epithelioid sarcoma. He underwent chemotherapy but his doctor stated that based on the MRI and PET scan results, the chemo isn't working. They wanted to discontinue chemo and perform a very invasive surgery. Now he is looking for a second opinion and I'm trying to find some options for him in New York. Are there any clinical trials available or any specialists he could talk to?

Dear Tracy, we are sorry to hear about your friend’s diagnosis. If he would like to make an appointment with one of our specialists for a second opinion and to discuss possible treatment options that would be appropriate for him, please ask him to call our Physician Referral Service at 800-525-2225. Thank you for reaching out to us.