When it comes to tackling important issues within the science community that address realistic needs of the public, few publications are quite as thoughtful as the journal Science when it comes to curating the best of the best research, in any given field. Though the journal often covers a wide breadth of topics, this week they're headed in a new direction, talking about game-changing cancer immunotherapy and the future possibility of individualized treatments that will take every patient's genetic makeup and mutations into consideration. And it has become a conversation led by many hopeful researchers at the helm, backed by promising data.
In recent years multiple reports have indicated amazing recoveries and remission of cancer patients receiving experimental therapies. Leveraging this research, the journal Science this week delves into the discussion with five review articles highlighting exactly how individualized immunotherapies will change the game of oncology forever, and how the field may maintain its current momentum in the years to come.
"Immune checkpoint therapy, which targets regulatory pathways in T cells to enhance antitumor immune responses, has led to important clinical advances and provided a new weapon against cancer" founders of Jounce Therapeutics, Padmanee Sharma and James P. Allison say. "This therapy has elicited durable clinical responses and, in a fraction of patients, long-term remissions where patients exhibit no clinical signs of cancer for many years."
By analyzing and sequencing an individual's personal genome, researchers and doctors are now able to find exact locations of mutations leading to cancer. With this information inhibitory signal molecules can then be created to block the activation of faulty pathways. In this individualized approach, researchers believe that the future of cancer therapies will focus primarily on the individual needs of each and every patients, rather than looking for a cure-all to combat a spectrum of mutations that ultimately cause similar cancers throughout the body.
"The field of immune check-point therapy has joined the ranks of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy as a pillar of cancer therapy" Sharma and Allison say. "Three new immune check-point agents have now been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of melanoma, and there is a high expectation that these agents, and others in this class, will also be approved over the next several years for treatment of patients with many other tumor types."
Though the field has quickly progressed, as government and private-sector funding has been funneled into cancer research, researchers are hopeful that the growing trend continues forward, allowing them to progress their research to the end-goal of finding multiple cures. While there may not be cure-all to every cancer, a more holistic individualized approach may provide greater efficacy in treatment outcomes and higher survival rates in the future.
"In the past two decades, remarkable advances in basic science have led to new strategies for the treatment of cancer, which are justifiably generating optimism that it may soon be possible to cure a subset of patients with some types of cancer."