Emma Shtivelman, PhD Cancer Commons Chief Scientist

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    Clinical Trial Versus Standard Protocol: Why and How to Enroll in a Trial

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    I spend most of my time trying to match cancer patients with clinical trials. I consider this to be the most important service I can provide. I try to find trials that are suitable geographically, have the best treatment rationale, and are likely to accept the patient I am helping based on their personal health and treatment history. In this post, I share some of my thoughts about clinical trial enrollment and why it is so important for patients to consider getting treated through a trial.

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    New Insights on Lung Cancer in Younger Patients

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Lung cancer—in particular, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)—in young people is a topic of great interest. It has been made even more so by the recent publication of a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that analyzed over 2,000 NSCLC patients of all ages and resulted in two major conclusions: First, that younger patients (less than 40 years old) have a higher frequency of targetable mutations. Second, that they have relatively poor survival when compared to older patients, except those older than 70 years.

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    New Treatments for Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine Tumors

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) of the digestive system (GI-NETs) can arise in different parts of the digestive tract…Two new treatments for GI-NETs recently received much attention at the 2016 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium held in San Francisco in January. Researchers at the symposium presented clinical trial results that demonstrated the benefits of these new drugs.

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    Putting Immune Checkpoint Blockade to the Test in Breast Cancer

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    About 10 months ago, we asked: is there a future for immunotherapy in breast cancer? Now, we can answer this question with a qualified “yes.” The data show why.

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    The Growing Arsenal of Immunotherapy Drugs for Melanoma

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Large numbers of immune cells (T cells in particular) are frequently found within or adjacent to melanoma tumors, indicating that the tumors attract the attention—if not the action—of the immune system. True to its reputation as one of the most ‘immunogenic’ cancers, melanoma now has more U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved immunotherapy (immune system-targeting) drugs than any other cancer type.

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    New Promising Drugs for Small Cell Lung Cancer

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Any type of advanced lung cancer is bad news, but a diagnosis of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a particularly grim one to receive. About 30 years have passed since any new treatments for SCLC were developed, and patients’ responses to standard chemotherapy with etoposide and cisplatin are short-lived. Hopefully, this will change soon.

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    Finally: An Active Prostate Cancer Drug That Doesn’t Target Androgen

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Most of the recent developments in prostate cancer treatment have addressed the timing and duration of androgen deprivation, who should receive radiation treatments, and the timing of the few available chemotherapy options. But this month’s big news is a welcome change: metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancers (mCRPCs) that harbor mutations in BRCA2 or one of a few other genes have a remarkable response to olaparib (Lynparza), a drug that inhibits the enzyme PARP1.

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    To Type or to Print? Oncotype DX and Mamma/BluePrint Tests for Breast Cancer

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Women diagnosed with localized breast cancer face difficult decisions with their doctors. What kind of neoadjuvant (before surgery) treatment to choose? Should chemotherapy follow surgery? Based on the subtype of breast cancer, should specific chemotherapy drugs be used?

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    Cancer Stem Cells and How to Get Rid of Them

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    If you have not yet heard of cancer stem cells (CSCs), often considered to be the real culprits in cancer, it is about time you do. CSCs are stem cells found in tumors. Drugs that target them are showing promise in clinical trials. More on that later; first, let’s introduce the concept of stem cells.

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    To PD-L1 or Not to PD-L1: That Is the Question

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    These days, it seems that I write mostly about immune checkpoint blockade drugs, or some other new immunotherapy treatment for cancer. This post is no different—it covers PD-L1, a protein that is at the center of clinical decisions for selecting patients who are likely to benefit from treatment with an anti-PD-1 or anti-PD-L1 drug.