“Immunotherapy will be a game changer over the next five to ten years,” said Dr. Sean Devlin of Santa Monica. “We will move away from toxic chemotherapy to using the immune system for the systemic treatment of cancer.” Dr. Devlin serves as the Foundation’s medical director.
“We got chemo to work about as well as it is ever going to work,” said Dr. William Decker of Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine. “With chemo, you run into drug resistance and often unacceptable side effects. Chemo drugs poison the whole body, not just the cancer cells. Harnessing the power of the immune system has taken longer than expected because anyone trained before, say 1990, was taught that the immune system couldn’t recognize cancer, couldn’t do anything about it, and therefore it was completely irrelevant. There wasn’t enough acceptable evidence that the immune system was important in cancer. Change often comes slowly because people tend to irrationally cling to their beliefs. Right up until approval of the first mainstream immunotherapy treatments in 2010, those who believed the immune system could fight cancer were still viewed in some quarters as screaming lunatics. We were not trying to be anti-establishment; we were just trying to get mainstream medical oncology to acknowledge what should have been blindingly obvious. People like to say that they’re data-driven, but most people really aren’t.”