Pancreatic cancer will soon be the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States.
At the 2019 Immunology & Immunotherapy for Pancreatic Cancer Symposium at Penn Medicine, Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, Director of the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn, reviewed the success of cancer therapy over the last quarter century, and the motivation driving the focus on treatments for pancreatic cancer.
Due to its unique pathology, pancreatic cancer is highly refractory to standard therapies. The microenvironment is challenging for immunotherapy, as there are few “druggable” targets (driver mutations) for precise genetic treatments. Surgery has only worked as a curative option for a small group of patients. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy offer limited efficacy, and then for only a brief time.
But this is beginning to change, according to Dr. Vonderheide.
“Our biological understanding of this disease has dramatically changed,” he explained. “That’s primarily been driven by new tools.”
The application of these new tools in the past five years offers exciting insights into the future of pancreatic cancer therapies. Dr. Vonderheide cited the use of big data, combination chemotherapies, PARP inhibition for inherited mutations, and FDA approval of the PD-1 antibody.
In addition to his appointment at the Abramson Cancer Center, Dr. Vonderheide is a leading light in pancreatic cancer research. His research focuses on clinical investigations to advance the understanding of tumor immunology, and to develop novel immunotherapies for cancer. Today, the Vonderheide Lab at the Perelman School of Medicine explores mechanisms of cancer immune surveillance and develops novel cancer therapies, specifically in pancreatic cancer.
Clinical Briefing, “Enrolling Clinical Trials: Combination Chemotherapy/Immunotherapy for Patients with Previously Untreated Metastatic Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma
Dr. Vonderheide's physician profile
Advances in Immunotherapy for Pancreatic Cancer: Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil (Part 2)
Advances in Immunotherapy for Pancreatic Cancer: Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil (Part 3)