Researchers are testing and refining ways to improve immunotherapy for cancer treatment.
UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers today report on a strategy to make a major advance in cancer treatment even better, and a means to test and refine this new type of immunotherapy.
Tumor cells contain immune checkpoint molecules that make tumors nearly invisible to the immune system. Immune checkpoint blockade therapies are drugs that rev up the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
“When the drugs work, they work phenomenally well, providing unprecedented long-term responses. However, the therapies fail to induce responses in the majority of tumors, especially in tumors that contain few killer T cells,” said Dr. Haidong Tang, a postdoctoral researcher at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study published in Cancer Cell. T cells are central to the immune response.
The first immune checkpoint inhibitor, pembrolizumab, received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in September 2014 based on its remarkable effects on melanoma in clinical trials.
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