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Immunotherapy for AML

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Published on February 26, 2020

Key Takeaways

  • Immunotherapy is successfully being used to treat solid tumors and several current clinical studies are testing success with leukemia. 
  • Bone marrow transplants are a form of immunotherapy. 
  • New understanding on how and why treatments work for some patients and not for others, and how the immune system responds to these treatments are currently under investigation. 

Dr. Amer Zeidan, from the Yale Cancer Center, share where research is today on therapies designed to "turn on" the immune system of acute myeloid leukemia patients to combat the disease. Although immunotherapy is not new to leukemia, as bone marrow transplants are a form of immunotherapy, Dr. Zeidan describes how clinical studies are working to better understand immune response in AML patients. 

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Transcript | Immunotherapy for AML

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:          

Are we looking into ways to harness the immune system that let us down when we develop cancer cells in the first place? The aberrant cells proliferated, where you can turn that on and knock the cancer back.

Dr. Zeidan:               

Yeah, I think that’s definitely a great question, and in an area in which a lot of research is going on. The development of those immune checkpoint blockers, and so the tumors have been a major breakthrough.

Andrew Schorr:       

Yeah, lung cancer, melanoma.

Dr. Zeidan:               

Yeah, yeah, we’re seeing amazing responses patients who have very advanced melanoma and lung cancer and other multiple forms of cancer, so the tumors basically, are living much longer and are doing much better. We look at this in the leukemia field, and we say, “Well, we’ve been doing some forms of immunotherapy for many years, bone marrow transplant…”

Andrew Schorr:       

Which is immunotherapy.

Dr. Zeidan:               

“…which is, basically, a form of immunotherapy, so, it makes sense that some activation of the immune system would lead to control of the leukemia.” We still don’t fully understand, for example, why some patients who get chemotherapy, intensive chemotherapy, are cured and why some others are not, and probably also have to do with their immune system being reactivated in some fashion. So, I do think there is a lot of interest in this area.

I think that some challenges that are unique to this area of study is that acute myeloid leukemia, although we live it every day, is relatively rare, you’re talking about 20,000 patients a year, compared to much more common tumors. So, trying to get the number of clinical studies that you want, especially in this setting, where you have many other agents, has been somewhat difficult to conduct the type of big studies that can give you these results.

The second part, I think, that’s important is that many of these studies that are looking at these, have used different types of immune activators in smaller settings. Sometime in combination with other agents, sometimes single agents, sometimes at the beginning, sometimes later, and without all of the understanding of the science at the level of the bone marrow and the blood, lot is actually changing. So, I think some of that is changing. We are getting a better understanding of how all of these processes work, and I’m optimistic that we are going to find a good way to use these agents in some fashion to help our patients with acute leukemia.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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