Speakers at the 2016 Concordia Summit’s panel, “Precision Medicine in Cancer Research,” discussed the importance and future of immunotherapy for cancer treatment.1

Dr James R. Downing, president and chief executive officer of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, noted the vastly improved survival rates among pediatric patients with cancer, particularly acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Other panel members included Dr Stephen Nimer, director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami, Florida, and Dr Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, New York.

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The panel agreed that future success in cancer therapy will depend not only on the invention of new drugs, but on the ability of oncologists and researchers to more accurately target specific cancers, using combinations of the drugs we already have.

Promising future therapeutic combinations, according to panel members, include epigenetic therapies, which can influence cancer cell phenotypes, and immunotherapies that target “genetically damaged” tumors.

One difficulty is the complexity and financial burden of sequencing tumors, particularly those of a heterogenetic variety. In precision treatment, variety “exists at all levels,” including the individual, the cancer, the cellular, and the genetic.