Cancer patients seeking the most advanced treatments for their disease will find a broad range of immunotherapy options available at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). Anchored by the widely acclaimed Fred Hutchinson Stem Cell Transplant Program, SCCA is also known for special expertise in selecting and treating patients with the cancer vaccine Provenge for prostate cancer; with high-dose interleukin-2 cytokine therapy for renal cell cancer and melanoma; and with antibody based radioimmunotherapies for lymphoma. Patients can also access investigational immunotherapy treatments—using T-cells, monoclonal antibodies, and gene therapy—in clinical trials that are available only at SCCA and at limited sites around the country.
Scott S. Tykodi, MD, PhD, a lead investigator and specialist in immunotherapy for kidney cancer and melanoma at SCCA, notes “Immunotherapies for common solid tumors have come of age. FDA approvals of sipuleucel-T for prostate cancer and ipilimumab for melanoma have made immune-based treatments widely available for the first time. Emerging favorable results with immunotherapies under development for lung, kidney, and other cancers and an ever growing pipeline of novel immune-based agents tell us immunotherapies are certain to become increasingly prominent treatment options for our patients.”
A Center of Innovation
Currently, the pace of innovation in the field of immunotherapy is impressive. In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first cancer vaccine, sipuleucel-T (Provenge), for advanced prostate cancer. In 2011, the monoclonal antibody ipilimumab (Yervoy), called a checkpoint inhibitor, was generating the excitement and received FDA approval for treatment of melanoma. More recently, clinical trials with anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1 therapies showed impressive results against a range of cancers, including the notoriously hard-to-treat lung cancer.
SCCA played an important role in the development of these new immunotherapy drugs through its clinical trials program. In addition, our research partner, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is home to many of the leading authorities on the human immune system. We developed this knowledge base both in our research labs and in our clinics, as we invented and refined the techniques that make bone marrow transplants possible—and increasingly effective.
Our center’s expertise in cancer immunotherapies was acknowledged in June 2012, when the National Cancer Institute (NCI), selected the Hutchinson Center to be the Central Operating and Statistical Center of its newly formed Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network (CITN) . CITN includes the foremost researchers in cancer immunotherapy from 27 top U.S. and Canadian cancer centers and universities. At the same time, NCI also selected the Hutchinson Center’s Martin A. “Mac” Cheever, MD, as CITN’s principal investigator. “The goal of the CITN,” he explains, “is to design trials of novel immunotherapeutic agents and unique immunotherapy combinations that can quickly demonstrate proof of concept and patient benefit, ultimately helping to define a path toward regulatory approval.”
Helping Patients Understand the Promise—and Limitations—of Immunotherapy
Because the science of immunotherapy is complex, we are providing tools and information in this section designed to help you understand the expanded set of options that’s now available.
Keep in mind that immunotherapy treatments are not yet available for all types of cancer and, where available, they are effective only for a percentage of patients. If you are a patient or helping advise a cancer patient, we hope this information will enable you to ask good questions and have more productive dialogues with medical professionals as you choose where and how you would like to be treated.