News & Information | START In The News

June 3rd, 2016
By: Jim Forsyth

S.A.'s START Center to Tout Immunotherapy Success at Major Cancer Conference

SAN ANTONIO -  (June 3rd, 2016) - Dr. Anthony Tolcher, Clinical Director of the START Center for Cancer Care, which will present 31 papers and abstracts, says the odds are finally favoring the cancer patient, as decades of work by oncologists have finally begun to halt the dreaded disease in its tracks.

"Five years ago most patients, for example, with metastatic melanoma would die within nine months," Dr. Tolcher said.  "Now, some of these patients go into responses that last years, and some of these patients may be cured."

The START Center has done much to bring about that change.  Many of the research papers that START will present have to do with 'immunotherapy,' which has come to be known as the 'universal cancer vaccine' because it teaches the body's own immune system to respond to cancer just like it responds to any other virus.

But Dr. Tolcher says it's not quite 'universal' yet, he says one of the big questions is why does immunotherapy work so well with some cancers, and not at all with others.

"There is a lot of understanding that still has to be done on how to harness the immune system, for example, to go after colon cancer or pancreatic cancer."

The START Center helped develop the drug Keytruda, which is credited with helping former President Jimmy Carter overcome his melanoma.  Some of the presentations to be made by START researchers include the use of immunitherapy in gynecologic cancer, small cell lung caner, gastric or gastroesophageal cancers, and pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Tolcher says the success of the START Center, which recently opened its sixth global facility, in Taiwan, is largely tied to its success in developing immunotherapies.

"This year is the year we have had more research presentations than we have ever had before, and outcompete our larger cancer center hospitals."