Sunday, July 31, 2016

NYTimes: Fresh and Major Attention to Immunotheraphy and Cancer

The New York Times personalized its look at immunotherapy -- Times graphic
The New York Times this weekend unveiled a dramatic, special report on immunotherapy to treat cancer, a field in which California's stem cell agency has invested tens of millions of dollars.

The Times' work will undoubtedly focus greater public attention on the use of immunotherapies and generate a fresh surge of interest on the part of patients who are unfamiliar with the expensive treatment, which is very much in its infancy. The Times wrote,
"Harnessing the immune system to fight cancer, a medical dream for more than a century, is becoming a reality. Terminally ill patients who had slim chances of surviving have gone into remission and patients with inoperable tumors are gaining months or years. But so far, the new treatments work for only a minority patients, and doctors are not sure why. The treatments are prohibitively expensive, and not all patients have access to them."
The Times did not deal with any of the work specifically backed by California. But as recently as March, the $3 billion California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM), as the stem cell agency is formally known, made another investment in the field with more than $10 million to two researchers, William Murphy of UC Davis and Lili Yang of UCLA. (See Tran1-08533 and Tran1-08635 here.)

In February, Alex Lash of xconomy reported that a new immunotherapy firm has sprung from handsome support by the stem cell agency. He wrote,
"Forty Seven(the firm's name), emerged Wednesday with a program already in clinical trials, a rarity for an academic spinout. Stanford researchers led by Irving Weissman, the director of the school’s Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine were able to begin testing the drug in humans thanks to $30 million in funding from California’s stem cell agency, known as CIRM."
Lash said that Forty Seven is named for the CD47 protein on tumor cells that its experimental cancer drugs target.

The agency also sponsored a webinar last year on immunotherapies with participation by the Food and Drug Administration and Kite Pharma of Santa Monica, Ca., and which covered such topics as safety and regulatory issues. The webinar is available here. Slides offered by Margo Roberts of Kite can be found here.

Here are links to the various Times stories.
Harnessing the immune system to fight cancer
What is immunotherapy
Immunotherapy offers hope to a cancer patient but no certainty

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