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Dec 17, 2019

When I think about the future of cancer therapy, I tell medical students that somebody in their generation is going to say how silly we were that we gave chemotherapy and radiation therapy to cancer patients -- treatments that we knew harmed their immune system when what we should have been doing this whole time was immunotherapy. - Dr. Jennifer Young Pierce

Immunotherapy is a 180-degree change in the way physicians are looking at cancer. We are not focused just on the cancer but on the immune system that allowed the cancer to happen in the first place.
- Dr. Moh'd Khushman 

In this episode, Dr. Pierce talks immunotherapy and targeted therapy with USA Health medical oncologist and hematologist Dr. Moh'd Khushman. Immunotherapy is a class of drugs that can help a patient's immune system to fight cancer cells much smarter than current chemotherapy. Cancer cells can turn off the immune system, and these new drugs can turn on the immune system to fight cancer. These drugs are full of hope and promise, and they are spreading in terms of usefulness to more and more cancer types and their treatments.


Key Takeaways

Immunotherapy is a class of drugs that help a patient's immune system to fight cancer. 

If your doctor or oncologist did not look at your genetic makeup, you need to discuss this with your doctors.

Sometimes genetic makeup can predict who would respond and who would not respond to therapy for a specific cancer.

Since 2010, we have witnessed an overwhelmingly increasing knowledge about immunotherapy.

Good candidates for immunotherapy have specific DNA mutations that have shown physicians that immunotherapy is going to work.

The biggest challenge and the unmet need of immunology are to figure out why some patients do not respond to immunotherapy.

Targeted therapy takes advantage of the differences between cancer cells and normal cells. It's not 100 percent precision, but for the most part, it's much more precise than chemotherapy.


The Docs Said:

Cancer cells can turn off the immune system. So immunotherapy drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors modulate the immune system and can turn back on the immune system to fight cancer cells much smarter. - Dr. Moh'd Khushman 

Every cancer is so unique -- within the gastrointestinal cancer types and also with other cancers. Within the GI cancer types, we treat every cancer differently. - Dr. Moh'd Khushman 

Now I really look at the genetic makeup for every patient that I treat, because if they do have any targeted marker, I try to plan the treatment for that targeted biomarker. - Dr. Moh'd Khushman 

Your physician and your cancer doctor should be looking at either a biopsy or a surgery that removes a piece of the tumor and then sends that tumor to be tested with some genetic test. - Dr. Moh'd Khushman 


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The Cancering Show is brought to you by USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama. MCI is a cutting-edge cancer research and treatment center built to fight cancer smarter in Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama. Our researchers and clinicians focus daily on the struggle against cancer, serving a potential catchment population of more than 4.1 million people, with a singular focus of advancing cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention throughout the Gulf Coast and beyond with science, technology and hope.

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