What’s a clonal neoantigen when it’s at home? And why is it important?

Many readers of this blog will be aware of the development of immunotherapies like sipuleucel-T (Provenge), CAR-T for the treatment of leukemias, and checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of some forms of solid tumor (lung cancers, melanoma).

However, what is getting even more interesting is that an international group of researchers, led by Charles Swanton and Sergi Quezada in London, England, think that they are starting to understand how to better target these various types of therapy that impact the functioning of immune system. How? Because they set out to answer a rather straightforward question: How do our individual immune systems see our tumors, and what are they actually seeing?

The original data have been published by McGranahan et al. in Science. However, there is an article today in The Atlantic magazine that gives a really excellent and non-sepcialist explanation of what the research team thinks they have discovered.

Obviously there is a long, long way to go before we will know whether their ideas are right and whether those ideas can get “translated” into more effective and safer forms of treatment for selected types of cancer in general (and prostate cancer in particular). What continues to be gratifying is the speed at which important new discoveries like this seem to be pushing forward the opportunities to look at the treatment of at least some cancers in completely new ways.

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