The Saint John’s Cancer Institute has continued to be a leader in the field of immunotherapy cancer treatment and currently has a large number of clinical trials using immunotherapy combinations, immunotherapy with novel targeted therapy and immunotherapy with intratumoral injections. These trials are led by Dr. Steven J. O’Day. In Dr. O’Day, the Institute has found a leading authority in the rapidly evolving field of cancer immunotherapy. Dr. O’Day played a leadership role in the development of the immune checkpoint inhibitor ipilimumab and presented the breakthrough ipilimumab clinical trial results at a 2010 meeting of the prestigious American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). He was a clinical investigator in the development of the anti-PD1 antibodies pembrolizamab and nivolumab as well as the development of the MAPK inhibitors vemurafinib, dabrafinib and trametinib.
One of the most promising areas of clinical research in immunotherapy for melanoma involves the administration of treatments directly into tumors.
The types of medications that are given that way vary, but that route enables physicians to not only deliver higher doses specifically to the tumor while sparing the rest of the body, it enables the use of targets within the tumors themselves. An example of this approach is intra-tumoral immunotherapy.
In intra-tumoral immunotherapy, agents that stimulate or help an immune response are placed directly within tumors. The goal of those responses is not only to kill the tumors into which they are injected, but also to generate a more far-reaching immune response, much like vaccination. Some of the therapies that have been investigated include what are called oncolytic viruses, which are viruses that have been modified to be able to grow preferentially in cancer cells. Others include gene therapies or more well established vaccine adjuvants.