Programs Prepare for Immuno-Oncology in Clinical Setting

November 26, 2014
Kate Venmar

Special Reports, Immunotherapy (Issue 4), Volume 4, Issue 1

Clinicians will soon face challenging decisions on which immunotherapies to prescribe their patients, and in what sequence or combination.

Advancements in immuno-oncology have transformed cancer treatments in recent years. Clinicians will soon face challenging decisions on which immunotherapies to prescribe their patients, and in what sequence or combination. Fortunately, a variety of programs and conferences exists to promote the successful implementation of immunotherapy in the clinic.

Immunotherapies direct the body’s own immune system to effectively attack cancer cells. Various immune approaches have been developed and tested to treat many cancer types, including adoptive T-cell transfer, vaccines, and pharmacologic immunotherapies such as checkpoint inhibitors.1

Checkpoint inhibitors and cancer vaccines have been at the center of immunotherapy popularity after demonstrating durable responses in clinical trials.2Checkpoint inhibitors have been successful in targeting proteins that suppress immune function, such as programmed death-1 (PD-1) or cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4), thus allowing previously inactive immune cells to attack the tumors they infiltrate.1

Cancer vaccines are appealing because they can prevent or treat cancer. However, the greatest success of checkpoint inhibitors or vaccines in the clinic may come when these therapies are delivered in combination. In fact, there are more than 19 ongoing clinical trials in melanoma alone focused on pairing immunotherapies or combining them with targeted therapies or cancer vaccines.3

With so many possible immunotherapy combinations, how can oncologists—who now rely largely on surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—effectively adopt their use in the clinic?

In fact, a plethora of resources exists for the education and training of clinical providers in immunology and immunotherapy, and more are in the pipeline. These include Targeted Healthcare Communications’ TargetedOnc.com, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) programs, and the newly founded Institute for Clinical Immuno-Oncology (ICLIO). In addition, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are also planning major conferences on immunotherapy.

The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) has just received a charitable contribution from Bristol-Myers Squibb to establish the ICLIO, which will sponsor a comprehensive program to educate community-based providers about immuno-oncology and the appropriate implementation of immunotherapies across multiple tumor types in the clinic.4

“We are thrilled about the opportunity to help our members adopt innovations,” stated Becky L. DeKay, MBA, president of ACCC. The comprehensive program will also be dedicated to assuring that patients who need them will have access to novel therapies. An advisory committee comprised of ACCC members and immuno-oncology leaders will oversee the development of ICLIO. The initial goal will be to establish the project infrastructure and identify partner organizations.

Eventually, ICLIO will use direction from community thought leaders, clinician scholars, and care providers to advance the scientific and clinical application of immunotherapies. Clinicians and fellows can look forward to an ICLIO national conference, a monthly e-course series, e-newsletters, and scientific and policy publications highlighting project findings and outcomes.

In the meantime, oncologists can go to Targetedonc.com to find free articles, videos, and continuing medical education (CME)-certified activities that explain the latest advances in immunotherapy options.5

Targeted Healthcare Communications also publishes 2 print journals focusing on oncology therapeutics, with a particular focus on targeted therapies, biomarkers, and immunotherapies:Targeted Therapies in Oncology™, andThe Journal of Targeted Therapies in Cancer™.

Community-based providers can also visit Sitcancer.org to find support from the SITC, which is an international, nonprofit, medical professional society of researchers, clinicians, government representatives, and industry leaders. Its mission is to improve outcomes in patients with cancer through the development, advancement, and application of cancer immunology and immunotherapy.

“There are a lot of immunotherapies in clinical trials, and we are gearing up to meet the demands of what’s coming,” said Kate Flynn, MPA, director of membership and outreach for SITC.

To meet these demands, SITC is offering regionalAdvances in Cancer Immunotherapyprograms. These CME-certified programs are designed to provide cancer patient caregivers with the education and training they need regarding the principles and practice of immunotherapy in the clinic. They specifically address therapeutic effectiveness, clinical indications, and the appropriate selection of immunotherapies for cancer treatment, among other topics.

Clinical Pearls

With so many possible immunotherapy combinations emerging, cancer care providers may have difficulty staying up-to-date on how to implement them effectively in the clinic. Fortunately, multiple resources exist to help educate and train clinicians in immunotherapy and the latest advancements in immuno-oncology. They include:

General resource websites

  • Targeted Oncology: Targetedonc.com
  • Society for Immunotherapy Cancer Research: Sitcancer.org

Websites with free online CME-certified programs

Websites with upcoming immunotherapy-based conferences

Future SITC projects include creating and updating guidelines for courses of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved immunotherapy treatment, and hosting an annual meeting. SITC’s next annual meeting will take place November 5-8, 2015.

Moreover, there are multiple other conferences in the US with sessions focused on the clinical use of immunotherapies.

The AACR, in conjunction with its cancer immunology working group, plans to host a conference on December 1 of this year titled,Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy: A New Chapter. ASCO is also planning to host several patient care and practice-centered sessions on immunotherapy in the clinic at its 2015 annual meeting starting May 29.

References

  1. Koberstein W. Combination cancer immunotherapy—A virtual roundtable. (Life Science Leader web site). September 2, 2014. http://lifescienceleader.com/doc/ combination-cancer-immunotherapy-0001. Accessed November 19, 2014.
  2. Zhou J. Advances and prospects in cancer immunotherapy.New J Science. 2014;2014:13 pages. Available at: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/njos/2014/745808/. Accessed November 19, 2014.
  3. Shtivelman E. Immune system-activating drugs in combination treatments may be the next big thing for melanoma. (CancerCommons web site). October 20, 2014. http://www.cancercommons.org/2014/10/20/immune-system-activating-drugs-in-combination-treatments-may-be-next-big-thing-for-melanoma/. Accessed November 15, 2014.
  4. Gardner L. ACCC to develop comprehensive program on immuno-oncology for community-based providers. (ACCC web site). October 21, 2014. http://www.accc-cancer.org/mediaroom/press_releases/2014/ACCC-to-Develop-Comprehensive-Immuno-Oncology-Program-for-Providers-10-21-14.asp. Accessed November 16, 2014
  5. Gross M. Targeted Healthcare Communications launches website. [Targeted Oncology web site]. October 1, 2012. http://www.targetedonc.com/ resources/targeted-Healthcare-Communications-Launches-Website. Accessed November 19, 2014.