Ask the Forbeck Scientific Community

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Continuing our series on "Ask the Forbeck Scientific Community" we received a great question about immunotherapies from Chip B.

"Do the new immunotherapies, including CAR T cell use, apply to ovarian cancers?  Does it matter if there is evidence of metastatic disease to the liver for example?"

In principle, immunotherapies can apply to all cancer types, and there are many early phase clinical trials testing these approaches to treatment. Unfortunately, it takes many years too bring these treatments to the clinic as it is necessary to show that they are both effective and do not do untoward damage to the patient. To demonstrate the effectiveness of any therapy, work has first to be done in the laboratory and then in animals before anything is given to patients. With respect to CAR-T cells, treatments have been very successful in certain forms of blood cancer. The early studies in “solid tumors” rather than blood-borne cancers have been less successful. This is due partly to problems in identifying markers that can be used to specifically target the CAR-T cells to solid tumors and avoid damage to normal tissues. Another set of problems related to ensuring that the CAR-T cells can get into the tumor and once they are in place and they are not prevented from functioning by factors that are produced by the tumor itself. Researchers are working in this area but it certainly should not matter if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.

-John Kemshead, Ph.D., FRCPath

Thanks for the great question Chip!