For decades researchers have tried to enlist the body’s natural defenses against deadly tumors, using a variety of experimental vaccines, gene therapies and monoclonal antibodies, with mixed results. Now a new combination of immunotherapies seems to work better than anyone had expected.
One of the investigators studying this particular approach is Jedd Wolchok of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, who has written “Cancer’s Off Switch,” a feature article in the May issue of Scientific American. In perhaps the most startling part of his extraordinary report he wrote, “I believe it is finally time to start thinking realistically about long-term remissions, even cures, because we can now combine standard therapies that target the tumor with immunotherapies that boost a patient’s own defenses.”
Yes, there are significant side effects that must be “managed”—doctor-speak for, “You’re going to get really, really sick but we think it will be worth it.” And yes, treatment is expensive—more than $100,000 a pop. But when was the last time you heard of an oncologist who was willing to go on record with the word “cure”? That’s how excited researchers have become about the new cancer immunotherapies.

Wolchok provides a comprehensive overview in the following video: