Early Progress Seen in Pediatric Immunotherapy

(Clinical Oncology News) – Heralded as a game-changer in adult oncology, immunotherapy is reshaping pediatric oncology too, but in very different ways.

“Unlike our adult [oncology] colleagues who are looking at immunotherapy as possibly their only effective therapy, [in pediatrics] we’ve got an approach that we need to integrate into chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. That gives us a lot to be excited about,” said Paul M. Sondel, MD, PhD, the Walker Professor of Pediatrics and Human Oncology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“This is really a paradigm shift for the field,” said Dr. Sondel’s colleague Christian Capitini, MD, an assistant professor of pediatric hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplantation. “We’ve had the same three modalities for decades. There’s never really been a fourth option for kids once these modalities fail.”

Although the key studies presented at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) looking at immunotherapy in pediatric populations were preliminary Phase I studies, Drs. Sondel, Capitini and other experts said the research demonstrates that two types of immunotherapies – chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) therapy, also called adoptive T-cell therapy, and monoclonal antibodies – are revolutionizing treatments for children with cancer.

Explaining the potential advantage of immunotherapeutic techniques with respect to resistance, Dr. Capitini said, “Even if you have a new chemotherapy drug for kids who have relapsed, these new drugs tend to act in a similar pathway to some other drug they got before. But when you talk about immunotherapy, resistance to chemotherapy does not mean resistance to immunotherapy. It’s a totally new tool in your armamentarium, so it gives a lot of people new hope.”


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