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Nicholas Campbell, MD, Medical Oncologist at NorthShore discusses the emerging field of immunotherapy, which has shown great promise in the treatment of advanced stage cancers. To help us better understand immunotherapy and how it works, Dr. Campbell answers some questions:
What is immunotherapy and how does it work?Immunotherapy is a form of therapy that wakes up the immune system so the body’s own immune function can attack the disease instead of attacking the cancer directly (as with chemotherapy). Multiple clinical trials have shown it can be effective in treating various forms of cancer in some although not all patients. But the success we at NorthShore have seen with this therapy is very exciting, both in halting the spread of the disease and in some cases shrinking or even eliminating tumors completely.
Which types of cancers are being treated with immunotherapy?The list is growing and right now includes melanoma, lung, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney and head and neck cancers – with continuous new approvals from the FDA to treat different forms of cancer.
What types of patients could be eligible for this therapy?Those with certain tumor types - such as melanoma, lung, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney and head and neck cancers - could be eligible. Although it is on a case-by-case basis as every cancer is different and every patient is unique. I encourage patients to have that discussion with their doctors.
What does NorthShore offer in this field?We offer a variety of immunotherapies depending on the type of cancer, patients and how we determine they might respond to certain interventions. In some cases we use personalized medicine techniques, assessing a patient’s genetic make-up to see what might be best for them. NorthShore is involved with multiple clinical trials with different disease types, looking at new ways to use immunotherapies and ways to make them more effective.
What does the future hold for immunotherapy?It’s definitely a hot topic in the field of oncology right now and I expect that it will continue to be with so many clinical trials on-going. Not everyone responds to this therapy and our goal is to make it an effective treatment for everyone with cancer and to make the positive response last longer in patients. But we have seen some amazing responses where patients really had no other alternative and – with immune therapy – their cancers just melted away.
Have you or someone you know used immunotherapy before?