Today's Cancer Research Pioneers

Victoria Stern, MA


March 23, 2015

In This Article

More than 50 years ago, the introduction of chemotherapy heralded a new age in the treatment of cancer. Since then and in the past 20 years specifically, cancer researchers have made additional leaps forward in the development of novel therapeutics. Many notable newer treatments focus on commandeering the immune system to combat cancer. Immunotherapies such as anti-CTLA-4 and anti-PD1 antibodies, as well as bispecific T-cell engagers (BiTEs) and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies, have made waves in oncology and are moving the field closer to a cure.

"I think we are in a new era with immune therapies," said Sir David Lane, PhD, chief scientist at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore. "In some cases, they really do seem to 'cure' cancer, and everyone in the community is galvanized by this."

Other promising areas involve engineering viruses and bacteria to selectively target tumor cells and boost the immune system, or developing novel delivery systems that can transport existing drugs to tumor sites more efficiently and safely. Projects also focus on expanding the druggable genome by creating innovative small-molecule inhibitors.

Such work may be closer to the bench than the bedside, but if successful in the future, it could help transform cancer therapy.

"There are so many interesting and worthwhile efforts in cancer research," said Martin Drysdale, PhD, head of the Drug Discovery Program at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow.

Here, Medscape profiles the work of a handful of contemporary investigators who are pursuing promising treatment approaches that stand to have an outsize impact on the future of cancer treatment. One approach has already revolutionized treatment—immune checkpoint blockade—but a number of other, more far-reaching and experimental treatments, such as oncolytic viruses and nanomedicine, are also highlighted.


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