The New Era of Cancer Immunotherapy: Manipulating T-Cell Activity to Overcome Malignancy.
Using the immune system to control cancer has been investigated for over a century. Yet it is only over the last several years that therapeutic agents acting directly on the immune system have demonstrated improved overall survival for cancer patients in phase III clinical trials. Furthermore, it appears that some patients treated with such agents have been cured of metastatic cancer. This has led to increased interest and acceleration in the rate of progress in cancer immunotherapy. Most of the current immunotherapeutic success in cancer treatment is based on the use of immune-modulating antibodies targeting critical checkpoints (CTLA-4 and PD-1/PD-L1). Several other immune-modulating molecules targeting inhibitory or stimulatory pathways are being developed. The combined use of these medicines is the subject of intense investigation and holds important promise. Combination regimens include those that incorporate targeted therapies that act on growth signaling pathways, as well as standard chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In fact, these standard therapies have intrinsic immune-modulating properties that can support antitumor immunity. In the years ahead, adoptive T-cell therapy will also be an important part of treatment for some cancer patients. Other areas which are regaining interest are the use of oncolytic viruses that immunize patients against their own tumors and the use of vaccines against tumor antigens. Immunotherapy has demonstrated unprecedented durability in controlling multiple types of cancer and we expect its use to continue expanding rapidly.