A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Immunotherapy Boost


Drug treatment could help some immune systems better target cancer cells.

While immunotherapy—a form of treatment that uses the body’s immune system to recognize, attack, and kill tumor cells—has given hope to people across the globe, it fails in a significant proportion of cancer patients.

However, a new study published in Cell Death Discovery on Monday, July 6, suggests that blocking the tumor-promoting protein MDM2 could bolster immunotherapy’s effectiveness.

“Immunotherapy has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in biomedical science and medicine of the last two decades,” says Wafik El-Deiry, MD, PhD, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and associate dean for oncologic sciences. “But it has limitations.”

Some people’s tumors respond to immunotherapy initially and then relapse. Other patients experience pseudoprogression, where tumors appear to grow before eventually shrinking. And a third group—between 5 percent and 29 percent of patients—experience hyperprogression, which means that immunotherapy actually worsens their tumor growth.

El-Deiry hopes that blocking MDM2, either through gene-silencing or the MDM2-inhibiting drug AMG-232, could be especially helpful for people with hyperprogression.

This study follows the recent launch of the Cancer Center at Brown University, where El-Deiry serves as inaugural director.

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