Inside the immunotherapy revolution – In the News

New Zealand researchers are at the forefront of the latest war on cancer: immunotherapy. NZ Herald science reporter Jamie Morton goes inside the revolution.

An excerpt (read in full…)

“Let’s not mince words: it’s a barn-storming, breathless revolution.”

Professor Graham Le Gros doesn’t mean to come off sounding over the top.

It’s just he’s palpably excited about the promise of an area of medical research we hear too little about.

Think of being able to beat cancer, with little else but our own immune system. Think of a world where we and our loved ones don’t have to suffer through the pain of surgery or chemotherapy.

Think of our bodies, charged up by some of the ­smartest drugs ever designed, raising an army of ­billions of cells trained to kill every trace of cancer that emerges within us, before it can gain a foothold.

Le Gros, a world-renowned immunologist, is talking about immune therapy stimulants.

Named in 2013 as the breakthrough of the year by Science magazine, cancer immunotherapy has gained a profile with a new generation of drugs we call checkpoint inhibitors.

One of these was recently approved for use as a first-line treatment in New Zealand against the most common form of lung cancer. Its name is Pembrolizumab. We know it better as Keytruda.

A wonder drug that tens of thousands of Kiwis successfully pushed to get on to Pharmac’s schedule, Keytruda seems to ­encapsulate our idea of the latest and greatest weapon in the war against our biggest killer.

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