NYMC Faculty Publications

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Journal of Hematology & Oncology

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The immune system is the hard-wired host defense mechanism against pathogens as well as cancer. Five years ago, we pondered the question if the era of cancer immunotherapy was upon us (Li et al., Exp Hem Oncol 2013). Exciting progresses have been made at all fronts since then, including (1) sweeping approval of six agents by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to block the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway for treatment of 13 cancer types; (2) a paradigm shifting indication of PD-1 and CTLA4 blockers for the management of a broad class of cancers with DNA mismatch repair defect, the first-ever tissue agnostic approval of cancer drugs; (3) real world practice of adoptive T cell therapy with two CD19-directed chimeric antigen receptor T cell products (CAR-T) for relapsed and/or refractory B cell malignancies including acute lymphoid leukemia and diffuse large B cell lymphoma, signaling the birth of a field now known as synthetic immunology; (4) the award of 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine from the Nobel Committee to Tasuku Honjo and James Allison "for their discovery of cancer medicine by inhibition of negative immune regulation" ( www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2018 ); and (5) the emerging new concept of normalizing rather than amplifying anti-tumor immunity for guiding the next wave of revolution in the field of immuno-oncology (IO) (Sanmamed and Chen, Cell 2018).This article will highlight the significant developments of immune-oncology as of October 2018. The US FDA approved indications of all seven immune checkpoint blockers, and two CD19-directed CAR-T products are tabulated for easy references. We organized our discussion into the following sections: introduction, cell therapy, emerging immunotherapeutic strategies, expediting oncology drug development in an era of breakthrough therapies, new concepts in cancer immunology and immunotherapy, and concluding remarks. Many of these topics were covered by the 2018 China Cancer Immunotherapy Workshop in Beijing, the fourth annual conference co-organized by the Chinese American Hematologist and Oncologist Network (CAHON), China FDA (CFDA; now known as China National Medical Product Administration (NMPA)), and the Tsinghua University. We significantly expanded our discussion of important IO developments beyond what were covered in the conference, and proposed a new Three Rs conceptual framework for cancer immunotherapy, which is to reverse tolerance, rejuvenate the immune system, and restore immune homeostasis. We conclude that the future of immuno-oncology as a distinct discipline of cancer medicine has arrived.

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Originally published in Journal of Hematology and Oncology, 11(1), 142. The original material can be found here.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.