January 31, 2019 – Who Responds


Anchor lead: It may be possible to determine who will respond to one type of cancer treatment, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors have almost miraculous effects on some cancers. Now new research indicates that the greater the number of mutations, or changes in DNA a cancer has, the more likely that someone will respond to these medicines. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, describes the study.

Nelson: They looked at 1662 folks with advanced cancer who were treated with these immune checkpoint inhibitors. Many different types of cancers and what they found was that pretty much for each type of cancer the highest 20% of the number of mutations, they called the tumor mutational burden, really were the ones that typically responded. Here’s the challenge though: the cutoff where the immune checkpoint inhibitors sort of worked or didn’t work was different for all the different cancers.  :28

Nelson says further research should try to discern why each cancer has a unique number of mutations that indicate susceptibility. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.