Immunotherapy ‘gratifying and frustrating field’

Doctors say immunotherapy is less toxic

An immunotherapy researcher at Providence Cancer Center in Portland, October 2016 (KOIN)
An immunotherapy researcher at Providence Cancer Center in Portland, October 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For more than 20 years, Providence Cancer Center scientists have been researching immunotherapy. The hospital has been recognized for its hundreds of groundbreaking clinical trial with new drugs.

“It’s an incredibly gratifying and frustrating field to be in because we always want to do more,” said Dr. Will Redmond.

Dr. Will Redmond of Providence Cancer Center in Portland, October 2016 (KOIN)
Dr. Will Redmond of Providence Cancer Center in Portland, October 2016 (KOIN)

He said the research looks at the ways different drugs work.

“One type takes the brakes off your immune system and allows your cells to attack the cancer, and the other kind of drug is a stimulant and it activates your immune system,” he told KOIN 6 News.

Immunotherapy can manipulate your system to better recognize cancer cells and destroy them, and it’s responding to several kinds of late-stage cancers, he said.

“I think our hope is that we can start moving these therapies earlier in the process so we can treat patients with earlier stage of the disease.”

About immunotherapy at Providence Cancer Center

Emily-Rose Witala with the Susan G. Komen organization, October 2016 (KOIN)
Emily-Rose Witala with the Susan G. Komen organization, October 2016 (KOIN)

The hospital has 21 treatment trials open specifically for breast cancer patients, which are made possible through donations. For example, 75% of a donation to Susan G. Komen stays locally to fund early detection and survivor support.

“The other 25% is given to our national headquarters in Texas,” said the organization’s Emily-Rose Witala. “They take that money and allocate it to different research facilities to fund projects like what Dr. Redmond is doing.”

Doctors say immunotherapy is less toxic and more tailored than traditional treatment and it could be someone’s last shot at survival.

“What we’re trying to do is develop new, safer and better treatments and anybody we can help with it is going to be a victory for that patient,” Dr. Redmond said.