Until just recently, immunotherapy (or stimulation of the immune system to treat disease) was regarded as an ill-conceived approach in cancer drug development. Many scientists and investors did not consider immunotherapy treatment to be a legitimate area of cancer research. The skepticism was not totally unfounded as there had been years of failures, such as those from CancerVax, IDM, and Cell Genesys to name a few. However, the immunotherapy sector learned from previous mistakes and is now beginning to prevail.
In April 2010, the FDA approved the first cancer immunotherapy, Dendreon's (DNDN) Provenge for prostate cancer. It then approved Bristol-Myers Squibb's (BMY) Yervoy for melanoma in March of the following year. Immunotherapy has emerged as a validated approach in the treatment of cancer, resulting in significant survival benefits with a superior safety profile to chemotherapy and radiation treatment. At the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference in early June, there were over 300 abstracts relating to immunotherapy. The technology's advancement is evident by its growth from that of less than 125 abstracts in 2009. This article highlights some of advancements in cancer immunotherapy that were presented at ASCO 2012. . .View Full Article