Newswise — The April 19, 2016 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) features an editorial by two Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) medical oncologists who specialize in melanoma: Dr. Shailender Bhatia and Dr. John Thompson. Their editorial addresses the state of immunotherapy drugs, specifically PD-1 blockade, in the treatment of melanoma. Both physicians have been on the front lines of immunotherapy research, including leading early trials of pembrolizumab, the drug used to treat President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma.

“People want to know where immunotherapy fits in to a cancer treatment program. The tumor shrinkage seen with anti-PD1 immunotherapy in some patients shows that we are off to a promising start, but we still have a long way to go to fully understand the power of immunotherapy drugs,” says Dr. Thompson, co-director of SCCA’s Melanoma Clinic, member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and professor of medical oncology at UW School of Medicine.

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance—working in collaboration with its alliance partners, Fred Hutch, UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s—is a leader in immunotherapy. In addition to offering a broad range of novel immunotherapies available only at SCCA and at limited sites around the country, SCCA is committed to identifying biomarkers that correlate with efficacy outcomes.

Dr. Bhatia, medical oncologist at SCCA and assistant professor of medical oncology at UW School of Medicine, says, “We have long known that immunotherapies can work really well for some of our patients, turning them into long-term survivors. Importantly, the quality of life of most patients is quite good while receiving some of the new immunotherapies. However, we still need to continue our research efforts to further improve our success rates with immunotherapy.”

SCCA is currently planning a new, best-in-class clinical trials unit dedicated to immunotherapy.

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