SIDEBAR: Expect Questions about Programmed Death Receptors 

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In today’s high-tech, sci-fi–loving culture, “programmed death receptor” seems like a term apt to stir up public interest, particularly when those receptors are being “targeted” by “agents.” In this case, however, the agents are antibodies that target programmed death 1 (PD-1) receptor and disable its hold on or interference with the immune system. They are getting attention at scientific meetings and in the press because studies in patients with advanced melanoma have shown that these agents are effective.

Although these agents are still investigational, “I suspect that for melanoma, we will soon see one of the PD-1 antibodies cleared by the FDA for use through an expanded access program,” Kim A. Margolin, MD, said in an interview with The ASCO Post. Dr. Margolin is Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Washington, a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and a physician with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Immunotherapy Boom

“I think it is super-important to recognize that immunotherapy does not just belong to the worlds of melanoma and renal cancer,” Dr. Margolin said, acknowledging that others have also stated this position. “The field is really branching out, and tumors that we never thought were likely to be immunoresponsive, for example, because they are so fast-growing, are now also being studied with this strategy.”

As examples, she listed soft-tissue sarcomas, osteosarcomas, breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, and a variety of hematologic malignancies. While this approach is still in beginning stages for some of these cancers, they are all now being targeted by various types of immunotherapy. “This modality is just exploding,” she commented. ■

Disclosure: Dr. Margolin receives research support from Bristol-Myers Squibb.

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In the News focuses on media reports that your patients may have questions about at their next visit. This continuing column will provide summaries of articles in the popular press that may prompt such questions, as well as comments from colleagues in the field.

Much of the news about...