Dr. Emanuela Romano: “Immunotherapy is indisputably a weapon against cancer”
What types of cancer are involved in immunotherapy trials?
ER: All cancer types can potentially benefit from immunotherapy. Firstly, at the Immunotherapy center for cancer, we will be focusing on gynecological cancers (breast and ovarian), lung, ENT and rare cancers such as sarcoma, melanoma of the eye and childhood cancers.
What are your main goals at the center?
ER: As an oncologist, I treat patients who are going to benefit from immunotherapy treatments. I am also responsible for developing the existing programs as well as new projects focused on blocking of immune checkpoints*, antibodies, cellular therapies and vaccination for the treatment of cancer. Our goal is also to design early clinical trials in immunotherapy. To achieve this I want to forge and develop ties with partners in both the industrial and academic fields, in order to offer innovative therapeutic alternatives for patients whose therapeutic options are limited or ineffective.
What role will you play in the translational research activities?
ER: Another of my responsibilities is coordinating translational research projects. My unit will play an active part in the preclinical trials led by the translational immunotherapy unit, in close collaboration with the basic immunology unit and the clinical immunology laboratory. Interaction between researchers and physicians must be daily and constant. It really is a collegial project and involves teamwork between physicians and researchers. The excellence and quality of the scientific efforts at the Research Center provide an enormous potential for investigation to address certain clinical and preclinical issues.
In the long term, what do you think will be the role of immunotherapy in treatment of cancer?
ER: This new therapeutic approach in oncology is now indisputably a weapon in the fight against cancer, and classic treatments such as chemotherapy, targeted therapies and radiotherapy continue to be vital. It is essential that we study how immunotherapy can be combined with other types of treatment.
The results obtained in phase III trials show that it can be very effective in certain patients, even with advanced stages of cancer. For the moment it is the only therapy in oncology that is able to produce benefits outside of treatment for our patients for many years. It is therefore vital to improve knowledge in this field in order to develop new medications, learn how to use them better, and combine them with other treatments for the benefit of patients.