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The Scientist Magazine Explains the Science of Immunotherapy

April 11, 2014 | Matthew Tontonoz

Need a quick introduction to the field of cancer immunotherapy? A recent article in The Scientist magazine provides a nice overview of the subject. Written by two physicians who are active in the field, the article surveys several of the main approaches, including non-specific immune stimulants, cancer vaccines, adoptive T cell therapy, and checkpoint blockade. You can read the article, called “Deploying the Body’s Army,” here.


CRI’s connection to the field of cancer immunotherapy dates back to the very beginning, when few else in the cancer research community besides CRI’s founders saw the potential in using the immune system to fight cancer.


Something you won’t find in the article: a discussion of the role that institutions like the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) play in funding the science that has led to these treatment approaches. CRI’s connection to the field of cancer immunotherapy dates back to the very beginning, when few else in the cancer research community besides CRI’s founders saw the potential in using the immune system to fight cancer.  

A central figure in The Scientist narrative is Lloyd J. Old, M.D., who was a cancer researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center from 1958 until his death in 2011. Old is credited with having brought the field of modern cancer immunology into existence. Not coincidentally, he was also medical director of CRI for much of that time, 40 years in total. Under Old’s leadership, CRI became the only institution in the world devoted specifically to the field of cancer immunotherapy.

The first effective modern immunotherapy—BCG, for the treatment of bladder cancer—was pioneered by Old and fellow CRI scientist Alvaro Morales, who was funded by CRI back in 1975. The first cancer vaccines were developed by CRI scientists Glenn Dranoff and Drew Pardoll. Jim Allison and Jedd Wolchok, who have been instrumental in bringing checkpoint blockade therapy to the clinic, are CRI’s basic and clinical science leaders. The list goes on and on.   

With the greater recognition that cancer immunotherapy is receiving of late—including being voted “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science magazine—it is important to keep in mind that the field still has a long way to go. Currently, only a handful of immunotherapies are FDA-approved. More important, even in cancer types such as melanoma where immunotherapy drugs are making a huge difference, not everyone responds effectively. Much more work needs to be done in order for cancer immunotherapy to become a lifesaving option for all patients with cancer. This is the work that CRI scientists are doing every day, and will continue to do, until 8 million lives are no longer lost each year to cancer. Consider making a donation today.

Comments
Stephen
I've been trying to follow up as much as I can on the developments happening in the field of cancer immunology. There seems to be so much promise in the approach to cancer therapy, despite it still being at such an early stage in development. I certainly believe it was well-deserving of the Breakthrough of the Year award from Science magazine.
4/27/2014 7:24:11 PM