In the 108 years since German Nobel Prize-winning physician Paul Ehrlich postulated that the immune system constantly fights off cancer cells and that, usually, it vanquishes those cells (meaning, no tumor forms), immunotherapy has made remarkable strides, particularly in the last decade, and is knocking on the door of mainstream cancer care.
Types of immunotherapy treatments currently used include cancer vaccines, monoclonal antibodies (synthetic versions of immune-system proteins), and immune checkpoint inhibitors (drugs that aid the immune system in recognizing and attacking cancer).
We asked Dan Costin, MD, FACP, medical director of White Plains Hospital’s Center for Cancer Care, to tell us a bit more about how immunotherapy is being used and what new developments may lie ahead.
Dr. Dan Costin leads White Plains Hospital’s efforts to treat cancer with cutting-edge immunotherapy.
What is immunotherapy?
It is a biologic therapy used to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer.
How do you determine whether a patient is a good candidate for immunotherapy?
In 2017, we have data to support the use of cancer immunotherapy in patients with advanced cancer, including patients with malignant melanoma, lung cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Does the stage a cancer is at impact the efficacy of immunotherapy treatment?
There is insufficient data to support the use of immunotherapy in adults with early-stage cancers, but there are ongoing clinical studies open around the country and in Westchester, at the Center for Cancer Care at White Plains Hospital, that address this very important question.
How has immunotherapy changed the way cancer is treated?
Our enhanced appreciation of how cancer cells evade our immune system and the rapid development and approval over the past decade of effective treatments that eliminate the cancer’s ability to [do so] have completely revolutionized our approach to managing patients with cancer. We are entering a new and stunning period, and, without question, we are witnessing a renaissance in the way we approach the management of this deadly illness.
For more of this interview and information on open clinical trials at the Center for Cancer Care at White Plains Hospital, visit westchestermagazine.com/clinicaltrials.