FDA Approvals of Immunotherapy Keep Coming, Even at This Challenging Moment


In the 2020 special issue of CURE on Immunotherapy, we take a look at how the field of immunotherapy continues to grow despite challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

We embark on this special issue of CURE® at a promising moment for immunotherapy.

Since the 2011 approval of the first drug in the novel class known as checkpoint inhibitors, these immunotherapies have multiplied both in number and in use.

They now treat a host of cancer types, either on their own or with other drugs. And despite the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, this period of time has been no different: Over the past several months, the Food and Drug Administration approved new uses for several immunotherapies that were already on the market.

Green lights include one for Keytruda (pembrolizumab) to treat a certain type of early-stage bladder cancer, potentially making surgery unnecessary in one-fifth of affected patients (curetoday.com/ link/273). Sparing patients, the life-changing and potentially dangerous removal of their bladders will likely go a long way toward preserving their quality of life.

So, despite the obstacles created by the pandemic, we are living in a time of hope and action when it comes to cancer immunotherapy. In this issue, we bring you a roundup of news about approvals of immunotherapies for diseases including liver cancer and small cell lung cancer. Meanwhile, an article focused on renal cell carcinoma offers a deeper dive into the intricacies of treatment with immunotherapy.

Elsewhere in these pages, we discuss experimental immunotherapies that show promise as cancer treatments. Our cover story delves into a novel therapy that harnesses a patient’s immune cells, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. These powerful cells are removed from a patient’s tumor, multiplied in a lab and reinfused.

In the diagnostic arena, we share news of a tool that uses RNA, or gene expression, to match patients with targeted drugs and immunotherapies. Typically, doctors use DNA to determine who should get novel drugs, basing decisions on which mutated genes are driving a cancer.

The tool designed by computational biologist Dr. Eytan Ruppin and his colleagues at the National Cancer Institute also addresses how genes are expressed and interact in a tumor’s environment, making it possible to identify broader groups of patients who can benefit from specific precision drugs.

Finally, the Cancer Research Institute shares information that can help patients, survivors and caregivers navigate the experience of immunotherapy. The advocacy group describes its educational webinars and patient summits, which are available online for free.

We hope that the array of articles in this special issue will give you an updated understanding of the immunotherapies available today, either as standard treatments or through clinical trials, empowering you to ask informed questions and participate with your care teams in making sound treatment decisions.

As always, thank you for reading.

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