Cancer breakthroughs in 2017

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SARASOTA – Cancer research and treatments made great strides in 2017 with a multitude of drug approvals, some of the most significant in immunotherapy.

The historic approval of Keytruda changed the way the US looked at cancer drugs.

“Prior to this year, every cancer drug that had been approved was usually approved for a single type of cancer,” Dr. Steven Mamus said. “Keytruda was approved for at least 15 different types of cancer by the FDA.”

The immunotherapy drug is used on a specific gene mutation rather than a specific cancer.

“They’ll have something called MSI,” Dr. Mamus said. “Which is a very unstable DNA or genetic message in certain types of cancers.”

Dr. Steve Mamus says this allows your body to be turned on to be able to kill a cancer cell.

“Immunotherapy drugs actually allow the tumor to become visible to the immune system,” Dr. Mamus said. “So the immune system can do what it’s supposed to do, which is kill cancer.”

This makes it a great option for patients like Miles Feldbaum who has cancer in his esophagus and both his kidney’s, and limited treatment options.

“We can do nothing we can monitor,” Fedlbaum said. “Which I suggested strongly that that was not an option, surgery was a second option, I was hesitant about that because I’ve done quite a bit of research and realized it’s not without risk.”

Keytruda is allowing him to fight, while maintain a high quality of life.

“I’m hoping that the Keytruda,” Feldbaum said. “Which is an immunotherapy drug can differentiate between the healthy cells and the non, and go after the non-healthy cells and destroy them.”

Dr. Mamus expects even more immunotherapy advancements in 2018.

“The addition of other agents,” Dr. Mamus said. “I expect to see increase in indications to use the immunotherapy for even more different types of cancer. I also expect a lot of information coming out with the combination of immunotherapy with other treatment platforms.”

And Miles Feldbaum has his own goals.

“I’m hopeful that this drug will extend my life,” Feldbaum said. “And I realize that we’re all just passing through.”

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Samantha Sonner
Multimedia Journalist Samantha Sonner comes to the Suncoast from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she worked as a reporter and host for KRWG TV/FM reporting on local politics, immigration, and border issues. Samantha grew up on Long Island, New York. She received her Bachelor of Science in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University. At Syracuse, she worked at WAER, the campus NPR station and interned at television stations in Central New York. Samantha is excited for the Florida Sunshine, and to be living so close to fantastic beaches. Feel free to follow her on Facebook and Twitter for story updates and news, or to send her story tips and ideas. You can also email her at samantha.sonner@snntv.com.