Funded by the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund in memory of James Ebron *
Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) is one type of immunotherapy that has been FDA-approved for the treatment of melanoma, bladder cancer, lung cancer, and other cancers. For some patients, ICB can lead to dramatic shrinkage of their tumors and extend their life. However, many patients do not see this benefit and some patients develop serious side effects. For most cancer patients, there is no way to predict if they will benefit from or be hurt by ICB. A test that could give doctors and patients a better understanding of the risks and benefits for ICB treatment for each individual is urgently needed. Examining the blood of patients, we discovered certain immune cells in patients who are less likely to benefit from ICB. We have found this is true for both melanoma and bladder cancer patients. We plan to examine whether these cells also matter for patients with other cancers and if there are differences in these immune cells depending upon a patient’s race. We also would like to better understand this special population of immune cells and how they may be linked to immune cells in the tumor. We hope that this will lead to the development of a safe and easy test that will provide patients better information about how ICB treatment will work for them. With this information, we hope to allow patients to feel and function better and live longer by finding a therapy that will be more likely to help and less likely to hurt them.