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Expanding Immunotherapies

May 30, 2017

Photo by Joe Howell

Preventing cancer, pioneering new cancer treatments and safeguarding patients from harm are missions that require community commitment.

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) is taking actions on all those fronts, but we can’t do it alone. The articles in this issue of Momentum highlight the importance of primary care providers, philanthropic supporters, empowered patients and emergency department doctors.

Our cover story is about the work our researchers are doing to better identify patients at risk for unanticipated immunotherapy complications and the need for doctors to recognize these reactions and properly treat those patients.

An expanding array of immunotherapies offers patients the promise of durable remissions and longevity as additional treatments become available for more types of cancer. Some of these new treatments, which were initially offered only at National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Centers like VICC, are becoming more widely available.

In many patients, immunotherapies do as intended, unleashing the immune system and spurring it to attack tumors. But other patients develop serious complications if their immune systems attack healthy tissue along with the targeted tumors. VICC researchers have been among the first to document these cases and develop treatment protocols. Philanthropic support was crucial to this research.

Two other initiatives this issue of Momentum details—one about melanoma research and another about genotyping tumors—received philanthropic support as well.

Primary care providers and empowered patients are at the frontline of cancer prevention. This issue also provides a checklist of potentially life-saving interventions, ranging from a vaccine that protects against cancer to screenings for early diagnosis.

Working together as a community, we can take actions to capitalize on what we already know and accelerate the pace of discovery to reach the full potential of a new era in cancer treatment.