From David M. Waterhouse, MD, MPH, medical oncologist, hematologist and co-director of the department of clinical research at OHC
May 6, 2019
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am living for the day when we discover a cure for all cancers. My patients know it’s the reason I went into research. I want to find a cure for cancer and put myself out of business, and we’re getting closer each day! OHC is using new approaches and therapies that that are like nothing before, offering a new sense of hope and a better quality of life.
We no longer solely look at cancer by the type and stage. We now take a personalized, genetic approach because cancer is different for everyone. Jane Smith’s breast cancer isn’t the same as Mary Johnson’s breast cancer. And at OHC, neither is their treatment.
Customizing treatment based on each person’s genetic makeup is known as personalized or precision medicine. The idea of precision medicine isn’t new – OHC has been using this approach for years – but recent advances have helped speed up the pace of this area of research, and other organizations are now considering this option.
In the past, when you were diagnosed with cancer, you usually received the same treatment as everyone else with the same type and stage of cancer. Some patients responded well and others didn’t, and doctors didn’t understand why. After decades of research, scientists learned that patients’ tumors have genetic changes that cause cancer to grow and spread. They also learned that the changes that occur in one person’s cancer may not occur in others who have the same type of cancer. The result of this research introduced the ability to customize treatments based on what’s causing your individual cancer to grow and spread.
OHC patient Barbara was diagnosed approximately three years ago with stage IV lung cancer. We had her tumor tested and it was determined she had an ALK mutation. In the past, she probably would have been treated with traditional chemotherapy that had been identified as effective for lung cancer. When Barbara’s tests revealed she had an ALK mutation, we recommended an oral ALK inhibitor to stop the mutation and cancer growth – and this pill is working. Barbara’s doing very well.
Another innovative approach to cancer is immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, or biological therapy, uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. One approach involves adding things to your immune system, such as medicines like Keytruda, Opdivo and Yervoy. OHC has been a very active participant in many of the immunotherapy studies and has significantly contributed to the FDA approval of these treatments. Numerous OHC patients have been taking these immunotherapy drugs for years and have experienced an extended remission with improved quality of life.
Another immunotherapy approach involves retraining your immune system to help it do its job more effectively. CAR-T cell therapy is a revolutionary treatment where doctors remove a patient’s immune system cells, send them to a lab to be modified to recognize and kill cancer, and then infuse them back into the patient. The modified cells stay in the body, where they continue to multiply and act as surveillance, looking for a recurrence of that same cancer and then destroy it.
OHC is the first in Greater Cincinnati to bring this ground-breaking treatment to the region for adults with certain aggressive blood cancers, offering a new sense of hope when other treatments are not effective. OHC offers this exciting new option in partnership with the Blood Cancer Center at The Jewish Hospital – Mercy Health. OHC is also one of the few independent cancer practices in the U.S. to offer CAR-T.
OHC’s first patient to receive CAR-T for his lymphoma was in October 2018. Today, he’s beating his cancer! (Watch for his story in the next issue of Connect or watch him here.)
We’re just scratching the surface regarding the application of immunotherapy. Ongoing research and data is showing that it can be successfully used for other cancers. And CAR-T is already being studied in clinical trials as a treatment for more than just blood cancers.
At OHC, we’re attacking with a triple threat: we deliver personalized medicine to target your cancer with precision, we’re leading the region with the newest immunotherapy options, and we continue to search for new treatments through clinical trials until we find a cure. We are giving cancer a beating!
Sources: National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Verywell Health
Top picture: David Waterhouse, MD, OHC Medical Oncologist and Hematologist, with one of his cancer survivors, Matt Stockwell.Comments (2)