Immunology highlights from the ITOC-3 conference

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Published: 12 Apr 2016
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Prof Heinz Zwierzina - Innsbruck University, Innsbruck, Austria

Prof Zwierzina talks to ecancertv at ITOC-3 about the importance of the conference and the highlights arising from it.

Areas of specific interest from this years conference include recent advances in the use of biomarkers as prognostic indicators, a growing understanding of the therapeutic powers of checkpoint inhibitors and increased efficacy of treatments by utilising combination therapies, curing even metatstatic patients.


3rd Immunotherapy of Cancer Conference (ITOC3)

Immunology highlights from the ITOC-3 conference

Prof Heinz Zwierzina - Innsbruck University, Innsbruck, Austria

I think that’s a unique platform that addresses translational research in immuno-oncology which is very important, of course. There are other meetings to address preclinical science, there are other meetings to address clinical outcome of clinical trials but we really like to cover all that translation research so research on biomarkers from bench to bedside but also back to bench, from bedside back to bench.

What are some of the exciting new developments being presented at ITOC-3?

I think there are so many upcoming new concepts for immuno-oncology but now it’s, of course, the checkpoint inhibitors and in this meeting mainly the combination of the immunotherapeutic drugs we also have at hand. And in the future we certainly need more biomarker development to find out which patients would respond or not respond to therapy, also to define the right patients to treat with these, at the end of the day, effective but very expensive drugs.

How have you seen the field of immunotherapy change in recent years?

What is absolutely new in immunotherapy is that metastatic patients can be cured, that’s quite a significant number of melanomas, of course less in non-small cell lung cancer. But still it’s a paradigm shift - there are a certain number of patients we can cure, even in the metastatic setting.

What do you think the future holds?

It will enter a lot of disease entities. Of course it’s currently doing so but in the future I think it will be the combinations. On the other hand, of course, these combinations are usually more toxic, as usual, as compared to single agent therapy so we will need to define this toxicity, raise the awareness for medical doctors – what’s unusual to them, unusual toxicities can be expected. We will learn our lessons and have to adapt to the situation.

What should medical oncologists make of all this?

We may cure patients; we can cure patients with metastatic disease, which is completely new to us medical oncologists. Of course these try to include as many patients into clinical trials with these innovative drugs as possible.

What would you like to see answers to at next year’s ITOC?

As the biggest challenge is, I think, the biomarker development, the prospective, predictive biomarker development that we really can define those patients who respond or don’t respond and select the subgroup of patients and get them the best therapy possible while we may have alternative treatments in the future for the biomarker negative patients. Because of all these upcoming new approaches in immuno-oncology there will be a huge challenge to define which patients to treat with whatever immunomodulating agent.

Any closing thoughts?

I would like to thank the audience for having come to ITOC3. We would love to welcome you at ITOC4. We move to another place in Europe, at least for the ITOC4 meeting which will be held in the beautiful city of Prague.