Primer on Immuno-Oncology and Immune Response

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Advances in the understanding of the immunogenicity of tumors have provided the basis for immuno-oncology, the development of immunotherapeutic agents that augment the patient’s antitumor immunity and disrupt the immune-regulatory circuits that allow tumors to evade the immune system. Two immunomodulatory agents recently have been introduced for the treatment of malignancy: sipuleucel-T and ipilimumab. Unlike cytotoxic chemotherapy, immunotherapies stimulate the patient’s immune system to mount or augment existing endogenous antitumor immune responses. Both agents have demonstrated significant improvements in long-term overall survival in patients. Like other immunotherapies, sipuleucel-T and ipilimumab also are characterized by adverse events that manifest as immune-related inflammatory conditions that typically are low grade. Management guidelines have been developed and emphasize early recognition of the signs and symptoms of immune-related adverse events and treatment with corticosteroids. Because these events can manifest even after the cessation of therapy, patients treated with immunotherapies should continue to be followed by their oncology team and other healthcare providers.

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