Immunotherapy is journal Science’s ‘breakthough of the year’ and Providence is on the case

From the Portland Business Journal

January 6, 2014

By Elizabeth Hayes

The journal Science has identified immunotherapy as the Breakthrough of the Year, and although the accompanying article doesn’t name Providence Cancer Center specifically, the Portland-based center is a leader in the field.

Immunotherapy, which takes advantage of a patient’s own immune system to battle tumors, is the sole focus of Providence’s cancer research. Immunotherapy activates a patient’s immune system in a way that allows it to target and eradicate cancer cells, while minimizing damage to normal tissue.

It’s the fourth method of fighting cancer, the other three being chemotherapy, radiation and
surgery. Providence has been engaged in immunotherapy for the last 18 years. It has trials going on currently in brain, breast, pancreatic, prostate, lung and skin cancer.

Providence has four classes of compounds in clinical trials, including one on “checkpoint inhibitors,” which involves taking away inhibiting signals that turn off the immune system, and another on vaccines that educate the immune system to recognize a patient’s cancer, said Dr. Bernard Fox,chi ef of laboratory and molecular and tumor immunology at Providence Cancer Center.

A study published recently in the journal Cancer Research found that 12 of 30 patients in a
Providence study with a variety of late-stage, invasive cancers saw positive results after a cycle of treatment with the OX40 antibody.

The Science story on immunotherapy pondered whether the future of cancer immunotherapy was too uncertain to be named as “breakthrough of the year.”

“Ultimately, we concluded, cancer immunotherapy passes the test. It does so because this year,
clinical trials have cemented its potential in patients and swayed even the skeptics,” the story

It notes that immunotherapy represents a new paradigm, “an entirely different way of treating
cancer.” It’s about manipulation of immuno-supression, or “blocking the blocker,” which prevents Tcells from launching full-out immune attacks.

Providence Cancer Center is one of 10 research institutions in the Bristol-Myers Squibb
International Immuno-Oncology Network, which allows Providence researchers to work with others around the world.


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