2 approaches emerging as promising treatments for GI cancers — 7 insights

Engineered T cells and immune checkpoint blockade treatments show promise in treating gastrointestinal cancers, according to a DDW blog post.

Researchers presented new information on both treatment options at Digestive Disease Week 2017, May 6 through May 9 in Chicago.

Carl June, MD, an immunotherapy professor at the Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania presented data on both treatments.

Here's what you should know.

1. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats is a way to introduce or delete genetic sequences.

2. Dr. June said that genetic engineering allows for T cell reprogramming. Researchers have reprogrammed T cells into chimeric antigen receptor T cells "that persist and kill any cell that expresses the target antigen."

3. Dr. June developed CTL019 which currently treats multiple forms of leukemia. He submitted it to the FDA for colorectal cancer treatment and is currently awaiting approval.

4. Survival rate after CAR Ts treatment is higher than conventional therapies. Through clinical trials, 80 percent of patients with refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia survived compared to 10 percent with clofarabine, the standard treatment.

5. Solid tumor research is still advancing, but researchers are developing several options for GI cancers, pancreatic cancers and other tumors.

6. Concerning immune checkpoint inhibitors, Luis Diaz, MD, head of solid tumor oncology at New York City-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said the therapy only works for certain colorectal cancers.

However, when physicians can use inhibitors, the treatment has an 89 percent chance of disease control.

7. Researchers have yet to establish a survival rate for immune checkpoint inhibitors.

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