“The future of immunotherapy for ovarian cancer I think is very hopeful,” says Dr. Kunle Odunsi, formerly a gynecologic oncologist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and now the director of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Odunsi says that at a recent meeting of the Gynecology Society, there were presentations about what he calls “some promising directions” for immunotherapy treatments in ovarian cancer. That includes several promising trials.Read More
The results from this trial, Odunsi says, have been very promising. And researchers can use them to continue developing immunotherapy treatments that could be successful in fighting ovarian cancer.
“But let me also point out that one very rare [opportunity], that you can naturally generate large numbers of T cells so that you can get into the tumor, is the use of cell therapies,” says Odunsi.
The immune system of the human body uses T cells, also called kill cells, to eradicate harmful viruses and bacteria. They can be generated in large quantities to help fight cancer.
“Can we actually manufacture ovarian cancer or tumor specific T cells? These killer T cells, can we generate large numbers and deliver back to the patients? And the answer is yes,” says Odunsi.
Doctors are now beginning to conduct clinical trials in which they draw the patient’s own blood—in a process similar to a blood donation—and then take that blood to a special lab and grow its T cells, creating billions of them. Doctors then deliver this bounty of T cells back to the patient. The process by which they do this is very similar, Odunsi says, to a blood transfusion.
Right now, this option is only at the clinical trial stage. But it’s showing great promise, according to Odunsi.
“So, there are a number of strategies, that we need to take, in order to harness the efficacy of immunotherapy in ovarian cancer, some of those approaches will require a combination of agents, sometimes with conventional chemotherapy in order to get the best results,” he says.
There are many immunotherapy clinical trials targeting ovarian cancer that are being run at this time. The Cancer Research Institute hosts a page for ovarian cancer patients and the general public to look at and investigate what kinds of clinical trials are currently being run.
They have a full “Clinical Trial Finder”—which patients can use to find clinical trials for ovarian cancer. The Cancer Research Institute also provides information on clinical trials for all other kinds of cancer. Across the board, only six immunotherapy treatments have been approved for cancer—and only one for ovarian cancer, leaving a ton of room for clinical trial investigation.
The approved immunotherapy option for ovarian cancer is Avastin, a drug which inhibits blood vessel growth on tumors.
There are many different kinds of clinical trials for immunotherapy for ovarian cancer that are being investigated right now. There are clinical trials that are for targeting antibodies, there are immunomodulator trials, there are cancer vaccines that are currently in clinical trial stages, there are adoptive cell therapies currently on clinical trial, and there are oncolytic virus therapies that are in clinical trial stages.
While only one has been approved, as Odunsi says, there is plenty of promise in immunotherapy for ovarian cancer.