Predicting Responses to Immunotherapy in Patients With Cancer

October 27, 2020
Natalie I. U. Vokes, MD

Natalie I. U. Vokes, MD, discusses the future of predicting how patients will respond to treatment, especially immunotherapy, based on their genomic profile.

Natalie I. U. Vokes, MD, a medical oncologist fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, discusses the future of predicting how patients will respond to treatment, especially immunotherapy, based on their genomic profile.

Vokes says researchers want to apply the framework of precision medicine to immunotherapy and, traditionally, that consisted of finding a single genomic alteration or a single gene, which then would allow physicians to effectively predict whether a patient will respond to therapy. However, those therapies also have a different mechanism.

Immunotherapies are more complicated in terms of predicting how patients will respond. The landscape of what determines whether a patient is going to respond is complicated with this type of treatment, according to Vokes. It may be determined by the genomics of the patient’s tumor, but researchers also may need to incorporate additional immune features.

With this said, the analysis of single genes is interesting because it helps us understand how tumor pathways can affect the immune response to the tumor, Vokes explains. However, from a biomarker standpoint, there is probably going to need to be an approach that integrates the features she discussed into a more complicated model.