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    Small Cell Lung Cancer at ASCO: Some Welcome News

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a fatal disease that has not seen new drug approvals for the last 17 years. Considering the relative success of ‘immune checkpoint inhibitors’ in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), it is not surprising that several abstracts recently presented at the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting were devoted to clinical trials testing these trendy, immune… Read more »

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    ‘Immune Checkpoint’ Drugs Show New Promise for Treating Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    It has become routine practice to prescribe targeted drugs to patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), whose tumors harbor molecular alterations in EGFR, ALK, and ROS. However, the majority of patients with NSCLC have no targetable mutations and lack good treatment options. Enter immunotherapy drugs, specifically ‘immune checkpoint blockade antibodies,’ to which many refer simply as ‘anti-PD-1 drugs,’ or simply ‘PD-1 drugs.’… Read more »

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    Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Melanoma: New Directions

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    The drugs pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo) were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 and 2015, respectively. These two competing blockbuster drugs are already changing the outlook in metastatic melanoma, previously considered to be a fatal disease. Known as ‘immune checkpoint inhibitors,’ they work by releasing ‘brakes’ on a patient’s own immune system, freeing it to attack tumors. In the wake of their success, researchers are now taking immune checkpoint inhibition in new directions.

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    Is There a Future for Immunotherapy in Breast Cancer?

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Lately, immunotherapy—treatment that helps the body’s own immune system fight cancer—has made frequent appearances in news headlines. Indeed, researchers have reported remarkable clinical trial results for a new class of drugs known as ‘immune checkpoint blockade drugs’ in the treatment of metastatic melanoma, lung, and kidney cancers. Approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the drugs Keytruda and Opdivo for melanoma and lung cancer have quickly followed. However, it may be that immunotherapies won’t work for all cancers, but only for those considered to be ‘immunogenic’; that is, cancers that trigger activation of the immune system. Researchers are studying different types of breast cancer to determine whether they are immunogenic, and what that might mean for their prognosis and treatments.

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    Lumpectomy Versus Mastectomy for Early-Stage Breast Cancer

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Every woman diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer faces a decision about what type of surgery to have. Together with her doctors, she will have to choose between breast-conserving surgery (BCS), also called lumpectomy, and mastectomy. BCS preserves the breast, removing the tumor and a rim of surrounding tissue, whereas mastectomy removes the entire breast. Patients with early-stage disease (with the main tumor less than… Read more »

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    Now BATting: A New Treatment Approach That Uses Testosterone First, Then ADT

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) has long been a mainstay in the management of prostate cancer. Indeed, the vast majority of prostate cancers depend on androgens (hormones like testosterone) for their growth. Lowering testosterone levels with ADT is a reasonable approach. But it comes with two sets of problems.

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    New Drugs Aim to Defeat Tumor Resistance to EGFR Inhibitors

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    In recent years, many people with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have been successfully treated with drugs called EGFR inhibitors. But over time, most patients develop resistance to these drugs, and the drugs stop working. Researchers are hard at work developing new drugs to help patients who can no longer be treated with EGFR inhibitors.

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    The Role of Pertuzumab in Treating HER2+ Breast Cancer

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Pertuzumab (Perjeta) is a relatively new drug that targets HER2, a protein found at higher-than-normal levels in about 15% to 20% of all breast cancers. Too much HER2 leads to tumor growth. Currently, all newly diagnosed breast cancer patients have their tumors’ HER2 levels tested. Knowing whether a patient’s HER2 levels are abnormally high (HER2-positive) or normal (HER2-negative) is a major factor in choosing a treatment, thanks to the availability of trastuzumab (Herceptin) and, now, other HER2-targeted drugs such as Perjeta, T-DM1 (Kadcyla), and lapatinib (Tykerb). These drugs are all used to treat HER2-positive patients.