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Kevin Dalby, Austin Oncology Researcher, Reviews Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Immunotherapy of Virus-Related Cancers

Originally published on

Did you know: Viruses are the cause of a large number of cancerous tumors.

This alarming fact is the reason for the urgency behind the research scientists are pursuing concerning treatments of such virus sparked cancers. Immunotherapy is one of the promising treatment choices used to treat a different variety of tumors.

Kevin Dalby, Austin-based scientist, working on cancer drug discovery, is currently studying the mechanisms of cancer cell signaling to develop targeted therapeutics. Through his research, Dalby is familiar with the use of checkpoint inhibitors as immunotherapy agents for virus-related cancers. Dalby goes into some detail on how checkpoint inhibitors are used in combination with individualized precision medicine for the treatment of virus-related cancers.

Comprehending Immunotherapy

A type of cancer treatment that assists in enhancing the body’s natural defense to battle cancer is known as immunotherapy. Through the use of material made in a laboratory or naturally by the body, immunotherapy strives to increase the body’s immune system’s functionality to identify better and eliminate cancerous cells. Cancer cells can get past the operation of immune checkpoint pathways that work to subdue immune responses against tumor cells. Cancer is known to dodge the body’s immune system and grow without the assistance of treatment.

Immunotherapy comes in various forms and addresses an array of multiple cancers. The treatment can work alone or be paired with other types of anti-cancer therapy. The different kinds of immunotherapy include T-cell therapy, cancer vaccines, oncolytic virus therapy, monoclonal antibodies, and tumor-agnostic treatments, such as checkpoint inhibitors. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved multiple checkpoint inhibitors, including anti-PD-L1 (atezolizumab, avelumab, and durvalumab), anti-CTLA-4 (ipilimumab and tremelimumab), and anti-PD-1 (nivolumab and pembrolizumab).

A specific category of cancer that can be treated with immunotherapy using immune checkpoint inhibitors is virus-related cancers or cancerous tumors caused by a virus.

Treatment for Virus-Related Tumors

The treatment for virus-related tumors is an urgent issue that needs resolution. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recorded that out of the eighteen million new cases of cancer in 2018, twenty percent of all cancers were accredited to cancer sprung from a virus. The immune system of the body has the job of preventing the outside invasion of elements like viruses.

Monoclonal antibodies and tumor-agnostic treatments, like checkpoint inhibitors, are a type of immunotherapy that aids the immune system in targeting cancerous genes, proteins, or tissue areas that allows for a tumor to exist and grow. Immune checkpoint inhibitors help in reversing the inhibition of T-cells to enable them to better respond to tumors better.

Studies reveal the effect that immune checkpoint inhibitors have when used for treating virus-induced tumors. While it remains to be determined whether immune checkpoint inhibitors are more effective in treating virus-related cancers compared to non-viral infections, evidence shows promising results with checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of virus-derived cancers.

About Kevin Dalby

Dr. Kevin Dalby is a professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy, Department of Oncology at The University of Texas in Austin. He is studying the mechanisms of cancer cell signaling to develop targeted therapeutics. Dr. Dalby’s efforts were recognized by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and the National Institutes of Health in supporting his research.