An Immunotherapy targets a cancer patient’s immune system with the goal of activating the immune system to attack cancer cells, where as a chemotherapy, generally kills cells that are reproducing (hence some of the side effects like hair loss are common).  Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that boost’s the body’s immune defenses to fight cancer.  There are several cancer immunotherapies available today.

 It is difficult to determine if an immunotherapy therapy will work and that is why it is important, and in most cases required, to utilize genetic testing to confirm that a patient’s cancer has the markers to know if an immunotherapy is likely to be effective (for more details click here). For some cancers immunotherapy is a standard treatment, however with testing patients we can find out additional treatment options like targeted therapies including immunotherapies.
Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment
Cancer immunotherapy can and has lead to increased survival rates with certain types of cancer. There are several companion diagnostics available that can be used to identify and gain treatment access to immunotherapies (can be a single or multiple tests), here’s how they work:
  • TMB & TML testing – tumor mutation burden (TMB) or tumor mutational load testing (TML) determines if a high mutation rates exist in the patient’s mutation profile. Tumors can accumulate mutations as they evolve and or metastasize. (These accumulated mutations are referred to as somatic mutations). The mutations may change the expression of proteins, therefore making the tumor recognizable by T-cells. With cancer, immunotherapies help the immune system target the tumors with an anti-tumor and immune response.
  • PD-L1 and PD-1 testing – These tests look for PD-1 receptors on immune cells and PD-L1 on tumor cells, which are sister-proteins to the immune cell receptors.
  • MSI and MMR testing – testing for microsatellite instability (MSI) high or mismatch repair (MMR) deficient solid tumors. These markers are commonly found in specific types of cancer, but now there are additional cancer types in which MSI-high or MMR-deficient tumors have been identified.

When applicable, immune checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive T-cell therapies create more sustainable results with less probability of recurrence than conventional therapies or chemotherapies.

“Until now, the FDA has approved cancer treatments based on where in the body the cancer started—for example, lung or breast cancers. We have now approved a drug based on a tumor’s biomarker without regard to the tumor’s original location,” Richard Pazdur, MD, acting director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

With immunotherapy there are a growing number of testing options. MyOncoPath’s, medical cancer genetic counselors can assess if an immunotherapy companion or complementary diagnostics is right for a patient. The immunotherapy companion diagnostic test can detect the presence of mutations and proteins in tumors. If the companion diagnostic test is positive then your oncologist may suggest immunotherapy treatments. There are also many combination therapies in clinical trials that also may be worth consideration.

One of the main challenges is identifying appropriate patients for treatments – this is where our expert genetic counselors are effective. Personalized medicine is cutting edge and is based on targeting the specific genetic biomarkers rather than the average response. MyOncoPath assists patients with identifying if genetic testing could allow them a better outcome by supplying additional information about their cancer, thus unlocking personalized medicine or treatment options to review with their oncology team. When it comes to patient health we believe in providing a new systematic approach with additional support and opportunities, as a part of a health care team, to ensure the best possible outcome.

Contact us for more details about immunotherapy options available now – call 1.888.335.8006 or 1.925.266.5777 or email