Differentiating Cancer Immunotherapy and Precision Medicine

“Cancer immunotherapy is actually different from precision therapy—in the former, we are utilizing treatments that modify or interact with one’s immune system to fight cancer—it does not necessarily rely on the presence of a tumor mutation, for example. The work in melanoma that showed that immunotherapeutic drugs like ipilimumab, nivolumab, and pembrolizumab were not based on the enrollment of patients with PD-L1 expressing tumors, and yet, they showed phenomenal activity. This is different from our treatments that target specific genomic mutations, such as erlotinib for epidermal growth factor receptor-mutation positive lung cancer. At this point, genomic testing of one’s tumor should not be done off of a clinical trial; some of our newer trials are looking at tumors that are positive for PD-L1 expression to see if it can be used as a predictive biomarker, but these are specific to the agent and to the trial.”

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Awaiting More Details of the “Moonshot” Initiative

“We are waiting to hear more about the Moonshot program and how it might help. Early detection and prevention of cancer are so important—and funding needs to continue. But, we also need to recognize that people are living with and being treated for cancer right here, right now. We need better treatments and my patients certainly deserve it as well. Hence, I hope the Moonshot program will provide more funding for clinical trials and recognize that in addition to the prevention of cancer, we need to commit to better treatments so that cancer can be viewed as a chronic illness that most can live with, not be afraid of dying from.”


  1. Dizon DS, Krilov L, Cohen E, et al. Clinical cancer advances 2016: annual report on progress against cancer from the American Society of Clinical Oncology [published online ahead of print February 4, 2016]. J Clin Oncol. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.65.8427.