Sarah Cannon - September 12, 2016

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a blood cancer, you may be wondering what the latest advancements are for this type of cancer. Learn more about innovative treatments from Ian Flinn, MD, director of the blood cancer research program at Sarah Cannon Research Institute, and be sure to talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.

Dr. Flinn

Immunotherapies are an exciting advancement for those facing certain types of blood cancer. Immunotherapy uses targeted drugs to convince your body's immune system to recognize that there is something foreign in the body (your cancer) and to attack those cells threatening it. Immunotherapy can be used on its own or in conjunction with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, to fight cancer.

One new immunotherapy that has been recently approved by the FDA is called nivolumab. This therapy was granted accelerated approval for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma whose cancer has progressed after an autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Nivolumab is an immunotherapy that had previously been approved for advanced stage squamous cell lung cancer, advanced melanoma, advanced renal cell carcinoma and advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

"Immunotherapy clinical trials are critical for developing the next wave of treatment options for our patients," said. Dr. Flinn. "We continue to investigate immunotherapies for blood cancer patients to help us to better identify the best treatment at the right time for those facing different types of blood cancer."

One specific type of immunotherapy is called CAR-T cell therapy, which uses genetically modified CAR T-cells to help the immune system recognize and fight cancer.

How does it work?

The immune system rids the body of abnormal cells that are foreign or infected and T-lymphocytes (T-cells) are a type of cell responsible for killing abnormal cells. First, T-cells communicate directly with each cell to see if they are developing normally. If a cell is abnormal, T-cells are designed to send signals that cue the immune system to kill them. However, cancer cells know how to hide from these fighter T-cells. Specially modified T-cells, known as CAR (chimeric antigen receptors) T-Cells are made by collecting a patient's T-lymphocytes and inserting a gene into the cells that produces a protein on the cell surface that allows tumor cell recognition.

Learn more about CAR T-cells and clinical trials that Sarah Cannon offers for this innovative treatment.