Immunotherapy Is Not a Replacement Therapy



When patients who are likely to be cured with chemotherapy request immunotherapy, it is part of the educational responsibility of physicians to advise these patients that immunotherapy is not the most suitable treatment for them.
— Anas Younes, MD

Some patients who ask about immunotherapy do so because they don’t want to get chemotherapy. Immunotherapy “is not a replacement yet, especially for chemotherapy, which has a track record of curing cancer,” Anas Younes, MD, medical oncologist and Chief of the Lymphoma Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said in an interview with The ASCO Post.

“I can understand it for noncurable cancers,” he continued, “like advanced lung cancer and other melanomas, where there is no cure when it is in an advanced stage. In that situation, it wouldn’t be wrong to start thinking about introducing immunotherapy upfront.”

Physician’s Responsibility

Chemotherapy, however, does have “a good track record of curing about 75% of Hodgkin lymphomas and about 50% of diffuse large B-cell lymphomas,” Dr. Younes noted. When patients who are likely to be cured with chemotherapy request immunotherapy, it is part of the educational responsibility of physicians to advise these patients that immunotherapy is not the most suitable treatment for them.

Dr. Younes foresees the use of immunotherapies to treat cancer expanding over time. “A lot of trials are testing these agents, either in combination with chemotherapy or in combination with other targeted agents or immunotherapies in other diseases and in earlier lines of therapy.” ■

Disclosure: Dr. Younes has received honorarium from Takeda, BMS, Merck, and Roche.


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