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Turning the immune system on cancer

New drug class uncloaks tumors in some patients

1:45pm, November 26, 2014

A new type of drug can unleash immune system troops to fight cancers that have become impervious to chemotherapy. In several studies in the Nov. 27 Nature, scientists describe surprising results in patients using a novel approach that puts cancer cells on the radar screen of immune cells.

The new class of drugs aids the battle against cancer by neutralizing proteins that suppress the immune system response and allow cancer to escape surveillance.

“This is a whole new class of weapon” against cancer, says Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center. The new drugs produced some stunning success stories in patients, but many people receiving them didn’t benefit in these studies. “We have to figure out if this is a paradigm that changes the way we look at cancer,” Herbst says. 

Cancer would seem easy for the immune system to detect. Cells replicating out of control display genetic mutations and rogue

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