5 Questions with an Expert in Cancer Immunotherapy
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5 Questions with an Expert in Cancer Immunotherapy

Susan Keown — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Nov 19, 2018

Latest innovations are offering new hope in some of the toughest cancers.

For more than 40 years, Dr. Phil Greenberg has been working toward a vision: harnessing the power of a patient’s immune system to safely and effectively kill their tumors. When the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientist started his career, the idea was far from mainstream. Now, there’s a Nobel Prize, immunotherapies have become standard of care for several cancers, and a constant flood of new approaches are pouring into clinical trials.

Greenberg is one of the scientists who made that revolution possible.

Years before cancer immunotherapy started showing up on the nightly news, his team provided a bevy of “firsts” that demonstrated the power of immune cells called T cells to target and eradicate disease. Today, their latest innovations are offering new hope in some of the toughest cancers.

In recognition of his expertise and ongoing impact on the field, Greenberg will receive the 2018 Richard V. Smalley, M.D., Memorial Award and Lecture, the highest honor granted by the Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer. The organization will grant the award on Saturday in Washington, D.C. at its annual conference.

We caught up with Greenberg before he left for the meeting, asking him five questions about where cancer immunotherapy is now and what is coming on the horizon. The transcript below has been lightly edited for readability.

What should current cancer patients know about where the immunotherapy field is now and where it’s going?

The strategies that have been evolving for immunotherapy have now shown unequivocal benefit — and sometimes remarkably dramatic responses and even tumor eradication in a substantial fraction of patients. Whether an immunotherapy is a therapeutic option is a reasonable discussion to be having now for many, many cancers.

With that said, we still don’t have strategies that we can demonstrate are effective at treating a large number of cancers. So it is an evolving field. We need to recognize that this is a field in its infancy now, and we’re just learning how to make it better.

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