The Future of Cancer Treatment – Immunotherapy
In the 18 months since former President Barack Obama announced the Cancer Moonshot Initiative (CMI), led by then-Vice President Joseph Biden, great strides have been made in the mission to accelerate the pace of cancer research. Among the goals of the initiative is to increase collaboration between public- and private-sector organizations, and government agencies to develop new methods of targeting cancer.
CMI’s emphasis on innovation – specifically immunotherapy – and new approaches to research are especially important for rare cancers such as mesothelioma because traditional research and treatment methods often do not work. Immunotherapy, which uses a person’s own immune system to help slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells, or completely destroy them, has shown promise in clinical trials.
What sets immunotherapy apart from other forms of cancer treatment is that it is administered to patients based on the genetic code of their cancer, allowing the treatment to work against the malformation, rather than just the type of cancer. For example, the immunotherapy treatment drug Opdivo (Nivolumab) works as an anti-PD-1 inhibitor that triggers a person’s immune system to respond to corresponding cancer cells by blocking the PD-1 protein on T cells. The drug activates T cells so that they can attack melanoma cells anywhere in the body. Opdivo, while developed for melanoma, is also used to treat a number of other cancers, including non-small cell lung cancer, mesothelioma, and classical Hodgkin lymphoma.
The bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act allocated $1.8 billion over seven years for the Cancer Moonshot’s scientific priorities. Funding for these innovative priorities, which include immunotherapy, is crucial to opening doors to more effective treatment options for rare cancers and ultimately helping scientists, doctors and other medical professionals find a cure.