Emese Zsiros, MD, PhD, FACOG

Immunotherapy for Ovarian Cancer

Immunotherapy is a new class of cancer treatment that uses the power of your own immune system to fight cancer.

This treatment approach uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to stimulate or direct the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Several immunotherapies are now FDA-approved for other cancers, such as lung, head & neck, colorectal, stomach, liver, kidney and bladder cancers as well as melanoma and lymphoma.

As a Comprehensive Cancer Center designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Roswell Park’s researchers and clinicians are part of the worldwide effort to develop new and better cancer therapies. Our Division of Translational Immuno-Oncology (DTIO) was one of the first in the nation to combine patient care, research laboratories and state-of-the art cell manufacturing facilities in one immunotherapy program designed to bring innovative therapies from the lab to the patient quickly.

For ovarian cancer, immunotherapy is an important new approach toward eradicating cancer cells, reducing treatment side effects and toxicity, making progress against chemotherapy-resistant disease, and improving the chance for long-term remission. Currently, access to immunotherapy for ovarian cancer is only through participation in a clinical trial, a scientific study that all drugs and treatments undergo before they become widely available and approved by the FDA.

Types of immunotherapy for ovarian cancer

Roswell Park was selected to be part of an Ovarian Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE), funded by the NCI, which focuses research on immune-based approaches in ovarian cancer. With this SPORE, we can offer ovarian cancer patients access to these immunotherapies:

  • Adoptive T-Cell Transfer uses your own T-cells (special white blood cells) to fight cancer. Your T-cells are removed in a process similar to a blood donation, and then grown in the laboratory so that there are millions of them. They may also be re-engineered or changed to better find and destroy cancer cells. The supercharged T-cells are then returned to your body through an intravenous (IV) infusion to begin working against the cancer.
  • Cancer Vaccines initiate an immune response so your body can recognize tumor markers (called antigens) that are present either on the surface of, or inside, the cancer cells.
  • Oncolytic Viral Therapy uses certain viruses to directly kill cancer cells and activate immune system cells such as your dendritic and T cells to target and eliminate cancer.
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors help to optimize the immune system’s attack on cancer. Immune cells and some cancers have certain proteins that work to keep the immune system in check. These drugs block the proteins, releasing the brakes on the immune system and improving the cancer-fighting effect.

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