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Immunotherapy as a cancer treatment was addressed briefly Oct. 8 at the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation patient symposium in St. Louis, Mo. This was one of several cancer treatment topics that I am reporting about during the coming weeks.
Dr. Mohammed Milhelm, Holden Chair of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Iowa, said “Sarcoma doctors aren’t happy with the current treatments available. I’m trying to move immunotherapy into sarcoma treatment.”
Historically, immunotherapy is used to stimulate the immune system, yet if our immune systems are always accelerated, we would not live. “We have a good brake system in our bodies,” he said.
Immunotherapy is using the body to target the tumors. “A lot of people are thinking about immunotherapy in combination with other treatments,” he said. “We are still trying to understand how the immune system works. It’s tricky and complicated.”
A lot of questions are coming up about how to do immunotherapy. Sometimes imaging months after treatment ends might show significant improvements. Combining immunotherapy with radiation might help the immune drug work better.
Newer, more powerful drugs are on the horizon. “We’re learning a lot from the melanoma world and trying to transfer it to other cancers. There haven’t been enough immunotherapy treatments with LMS to know if it is effective.”
Swelling can be a big problem, especially in the bones and the brain, and is a concern researchers still don’t know how to address.
There is a lot of promise right now, but researchers don’t yet know how to translate it into treatments for LMS.