What is cancer immunotherapy?
Steven Rosenberg, MD, PhD, pioneered the development of effective immunotherapies for patients with advanced cancer. In this video, he explains how these treatments are already curing certain types of cancer.
[MUSIC PLAYING] And we have many patients now that are beyond 20 years in disease free. It's very likely a curative treatment for patients
with metastatic melanoma.
Any time you do something new, there are always people who are not prepared to accept it. But the fact is that interleukin-2,
the very first immunotherapy, now-- what-- almost 30 years later has been shown
to successfully treat people. The first patient to respond to high dose IL-2 received a lot of publicity at that time.
I just saw her in my office about two months ago and she's now 29 years after having been treated with IL-2.
She had widespread melanoma throughout her body it all disappeared. And it's still gone 29 years later. And we have many patients now that
are beyond 20 years in disease free. It's a very likely a curative treatment for patients with metastatic melanoma.
So interleukin-2 is a hormone produced by lymphocytes. It stimulates the immune system non-specifically.
So when patients develop an immune reaction, their lymphocytes-- the immune warriors, the white cells that circulate through the body--
when they recognize an antigen, they upregulate receptors for IL-2. And when you give IL-2 you can expand those cells in the body.
That's what an immune response is, an expansion of immune lymphocytes that can attack a given target. Interleukin-2 appears able to expand anti-tumor T cells
and at least in some patients with melanoma, cure them. So cancer immunotherapy is a different kind
of treatment than the conventional treatments we use of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Those are external forces.
We use a scalpel, a radiation beam, or drugs. In immunotherapy, we try to attack the cancer
by stimulating the body's own immune system to recognize the cancer and reject it.
The immune system is highly specific to recognize things that are non-self that invade the body,
like viruses, bacteria. Well, the immune system of a patient recognizes the cancer as foreign, but not foreign enough
to reject it. In immunotherapy, we manipulate the body's own natural immune system to recognize the cancer more
effectively and eliminate it. We began looking at high-dose interleukin-2 therapy for virtually all cancers.
And it turned out that patients with melanoma and kidney cancer were uniquely responsive. And we i many years, as have many others,
trying to understand why melanoma is more-- so much more immunogenic than other kinds of cancers. And we probably understand that now in that melanomas
tend to have more mutations than the great majority of other cancers.
And the immune system generally acts against cancer by recognizing these mutations. That is DNA changes that result in proteins and cancer
cells that are not present in normal cells. And there are many more of those in melanoma than most other tumors, probably except for smoke patients
with smoking-induced lung cancers. This is a highly personalized therapy. In other words, we identify T cells, the immune cells,
in a patient that recognize a unique mutation within that patient's cancer that's
not present in other cancers and target it specifically. So it's the most highly personalized treatment
one can imagine in that we develop a new drug for every patient. We take their lymphocytes.
Identify their own lymphocytes that can target the cancer. Grow them up to large numbers or genetically-engineer
those cells to recognize the cancer. So that's just one form of immunotherapy. Of course, we've been developing other immunotherapies
to target shared antigens. But what has me excited about this new approach is it's potentially, a treatment for many different cancer
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