Debra Madden on Unrealistic Expectations For Immuno-Oncology Treatments

Many patients have learned about the advances in immunotherapy treatments for cancer, but the media may not be portraying all the complexities and potential harms of these agents, according to Debra L. Madden, cancer research advocate and patient representative. Madden mentioned that biomarker research could help determine which patients are most likely to benefit from immuno-oncology.

Many patients have learned about the advances in immunotherapy treatments for cancer, but the media may not fully portray all the complexities and potential harms of these agents, according to Debra L. Madden, cancer research advocate and patient representative. Madden mentioned that biomarker research could help determine which patients are most likely to benefit from immuno-oncology.

Transcript (slightly modified)

What is the current level of knowledge most cancer patients have regarding immunotherapy risks?

If they’re interested in information about cancer treatments, they will have noticed that there’s all sorts of announcements about immunotherapy overall, and what an important advance it is, and how it’s the most exciting breakthrough that we have seen in cancer treatment in decades. And for some patients, that’s true. But again, I worry sometimes about how important and complex medical topics are presented in the popular media, because there’s not always discussion about, again, as we were talking about before, some of the adverse effects, and some of the potential harms, as well as the potential benefits.

But also, a couple areas aren’t mentioned as much in the popular media. And that’s the fact that, yes, there are some patients who have done extremely well with traditionally very difficult to treat cancers and advanced cancers. However, unfortunately, that’s the minority of patients. Most patients do not have a response to these immuno-oncologic agents. One of the most important research questions that we have at this point is determining what biomarkers can we look at that will indicate, who are these patients who are most likely to respond, so we can have more patients ultimately benefit.