Scientists Tout Potential of Cancer Immunotherapy at Annual Men’s Event

Posted in GUMC Stories

JULY 1, 2014-Nearly 200 local businessmen and supporters of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center gathered at the Men’s Event June 23 to discuss the latest developments in prostate cancer research.

The charitable dinner and live auction, now in its 15th year, raises funds to support the advancement of state-of-the-art treatments at the Cancer Center. The event was held at Capital Grille in Chevy Chase, Maryland and was sponsored by K&L Gates and the National Cancer Prevention Fund .

Georgetown Lombardi Director Louis M. Weiner, MD, began the evening by leading a briefing on cancer immunotherapy, which he described as “harnessing the power of the body to attack the cancer.” Weiner explained that by treating the body’s immune system, oncologists enable the body to defend itself against the disease—a novel approach to cancer treatment.

“In the past year, we have seen the first real signs of a genuine revolution in cancer care,” said Weiner. “This is going to be known as the era when we really began to change the nature of the disease and how people are affected by it.”

The challenge, Weiner noted, is determining exactly how to combine immunotherapy with traditional forms of cancer treatment.

“How we actually learn to integrate this extraordinary new approach into the gold standards that we’ve always used—surgery, radiation, chemotherapy—is really going to be the mark of this current era.”

Georgetown Lombardi Deputy Director Michael B. Atkins, MD , explained how a tumor can shut down a patient’s immune system, and how immune activity can be restored by identifying and deactivating the proteins in the tumor that are responsible for this shutdown.

“This means that we may have treatments that raise the possibility of not just producing tumor shrinkage in a lot of different cancers, but potentially curing cancer. Durable responses from immunotherapy lead to cures,” Atkins said.  

Anatoly Dritschilo, MD , a radiation oncologist at Georgetown Lombardi, ended the cancer briefing with an update on a new proton beam facility that is slated to begin construction within a few weeks.

Dritschilo emphasized the importance of proton beam therapy in allowing patients to undergo radiation while significantly reducing the amount of damage to healthy tissues and organs.

After the briefing, the men enjoyed a cocktail reception as the master of ceremonies, Leon Harris of WJLA-TV , thanked the event’s co-chairs, sponsors, and dinner committee for their generous contributions.

The reception was followed by dinner and a live auction featuring items such as a day at the Washington Nationals Baseball Club, a week in St. Thomas, and a case of wine complete with a Capital Grille wine locker for one year.

Weiner congratulated the attendees on another successful event and shared his appreciation for their continued support of Georgetown Lombardi.

“We are seeing some of the most miraculous improvements in the treatments of some types of cancers that we never dreamt we would ever see in our lifetimes,” said Weiner. “It’s an extraordinarily exciting time for the treatment of cancer and we’re honored to be a part of it.”

By Cherisse Cobrand
Georgetown Lombardi Communications