The Genesis of Immunotherapy
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RAZELLE KURZROCKCancer has been extremely difficult to treat, and I think the reason is that, historically, we didn't have the tools to understand it.
MICHAEL POSTOWIt was actually really in the late 19th century that immunotherapy really began. And it was due to a doctor, William Coley, who had found out, in patients that he had done big surgeries for, those that had a post-operative infection sometimes would have a real amazing tumor regression.
PHILIP GREENBERG: Some of the biggest challenges was trying to figure out what is it on a tumor cell that an immune cell could recognize. So the immune system evolved very, very efficiently to recognize foreign invaders. The problem is is that tumors are not very far. The difference between a cancer cell and a normal cell can be, at times, very, very small.
DAVID MALONEYWhen you treat patients with this technology, every patient is a learning experience. And I have learned now that there is almost no patient to where I wouldn't expect this to potentially work.
PHILIP GREENBERGWe've been working on this for four decades now. The really exciting part for us now is that after many years of studying how to manipulate the immune system to recognize cancer, we're seeing benefit.
RAZELLE KURZROCKThe field has changed in a transformative way. Now we really understand the biology of how the immune system works and how the tumor cells evade it.
MICHAEL POSTOWI've had a lot of patients that have had unbelievable outcomes to immune therapy and the most impressive recoveries I've seen are the people that I've seen initially that are incredibly sick.
RAZELLE KURZROCK: What is amazing is that the patients with what we considered just three or four years ago the most hopeless are actually the patients that are the best patients. The more mutations, the more messed up the tumor, the better the immune system can recognize it.
PHILIP GREENBERGThe question is, can we start doing this reproducibly at much earlier time points? So if this is safe and effective, can you, for example, avoid chemotherapies, avoid radiation therapies by giving these therapies upfront, early in disease?
MARK TOSEWhen I think that I could be participating in something that could eliminate chemotherapy in the future, I'm so happy and proud to help because it will revolutionize the treatment of cancer.
SPEAKERThe main takeaway about the current state of immunotherapy is that it's still early days but the hope is definitely there. We're seeing remarkable responses in malignancies that no one would have, even in their right mind, thought we could even approach.
PHILIP GREENBERGWe've been treating patients with leukemia now who had likelihoods of dying with their leukemia within a couple of months, and now several of them are years out now. So this is pretty exciting.
MARK TOSEIt's saving my life. I can feel it saving my life. My new immune system.
PHILIP GREENBERGIt's not a question if it can work anymore. The question is, what will be the limits? How much better can we make it and how quickly can we get there?