Memorial Sloan Kettering Team Makes Key Discovery in Understanding Immunotherapy’s Successes—And Its Failures

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A collaborative team of leaders in the field of cancer immunology from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has made a key discovery that advances the understanding of why some patients respond to ipilimumab, an immunotherapy drug, while others do not.  MSK was at the forefront of the clinical research that brought this CTLA-4 blocking antibody to melanoma patients.

A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that in patients who respond to ipilimumab, their cancer cells carry a high number of gene mutations—some of which make tumors more visible to the immune system, and therefore easier to fight.

The research was led by Vice Chair of Radiation Oncology and cancer genomics researcher Timothy Chan, MD, PhD ; oncology fellow Alexandra Snyder Charen, MD; and Chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service and the Lloyd J. Old Chair for Clinical Investigation Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD. All are available to discuss the importance of the study. To set up an interview, email our media staff at