BTG has announced a collaboration with the Society of Interventional Oncology (SIO; a global organisation working to nurture and support interventional oncology worldwide) to explore the role of interventional oncology alongside immuno-oncology.
Recent advances in cancer immunotherapy have led to an explosion of interest in immuno-oncology. Newly approved treatments, such as checkpoint inhibitors, have been shown to prolong overall survival but only for a limited proportion of cancer patients, and only in certain tumour types. Combining immuno-oncology agents with the minimally invasive, locoregional therapies of interventional oncology has the potential to expand the number of cancer patients who could benefit. Further research is needed to understand the potential of these combinations.
SIO and BTG have established a working group to determine how best to explore the role of interventional oncology alongside immuno-oncology in the fight against cancer. This group, which includes interventional radiologists and immuno-oncologists, will identify unmet clinical needs and the critical areas of science that require further dedicated research. The working group plans to publish a white paper to guide research and clinical practice later this year.
This collaboration also establishes an independent research fund that will enable SIO to offer grant funding to independent investigators to address the critical unanswered questions for this combination therapy. SIO plans to fund collaborative research ranging from exploratory pilot projects to prospective clinical trials.
“SIO was founded to provide an optimal and necessary vehicle to nurture and support interventional oncology as the fourth pillar of cancer therapy worldwide. This research collaboration with BTG will help provide the resources necessary to further uncover how interventional oncology procedures may work synergistically when combined with another of the most cutting edge oncologic strategies – immunotherapy,” stated S Nahum Goldberg, vice-chair for Research and Head of the Interventional Oncology Unit, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel and SIO Interventional/Immuno-oncology Working Group Chair.
Melanie Lee, chief scientific officer of BTG, commented “As a leader in interventional oncology therapies, we believe this is an excellent opportunity to work with the scientific community and invest in generating new knowledge. Our portfolio includes embolic beads, radioactive microspheres, and cryotherapy solutions and this research will answer important questions about whether these minimally invasive therapies can expand the benefits of immuno-oncology drugs.” See Lee’s feature article on the topic, here.
How locoregional therapies might help
Checkpoint inhibitors turn off signals that can inhibit the ability of T cells to kill cancer cells, but different tumours present different immunological challenges with responses also dependent on factors in the local tumour microenvironment. Locoregional therapies, such as cryotherapy, embolization or selective internal radiation therapy, debulk the tumour, which may make it easier for the immune system to tackle what remains. There is also some evidence that locoregional therapies can also induce a tumour-specific immune response, releasing tumour antigens, and can help create an antitumour microenvironment. If combined with a checkpoint inhibitor or other immunotherapy, these effects could help make these agents more effective in a larger patient population. As locoregional therapies are generally well tolerated, using them in combination is less likely to complicate the side-effect profile—an important consideration given the immune mediated side-effects commonly experienced with checkpoint inhibitors.