The list of cancers that can be treated by immunotherapy keeps growing

By Laurie McGinley
NEW ORLEANS — New immunotherapy drugs are showing significant and extended effectiveness against a broadening range of cancers, including rare and intractable tumors often caused by viruses. Researchers say these advances suggest the treatment approach is poised to become a critical part of the nation’s anti-cancer strategy.
Scientists reported Tuesday on two new studies showing that the medications, which marshal the body’s own immune defenses, are now having some effect against recurrent, difficult-to-treat head and neck cancer and an extremely lethal skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma. The diseases can be caused by viruses as well as DNA mutations, and the data show that the drugs help the immune system to recognize and attack cancers resulting from either cause.
The new studies appear to be the first to find that “virus-driven cancers can be amenable to treatment by immunotherapy,” said Paul Nghiem, an investigator with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who led the skin-cancer study. Since viruses and other pathogens are responsible for more than 20 percent of all cancers, “these results have implications that go far beyond” Merkel cell carcinoma……..
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Source: Washington Post