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Mary Elizabeth Williams: Conquering Cancer with the Immune System

In 2010, Mary Elizabeth Williams was diagnosed with melanoma. Although doctors were able to remove her tumor, a year later the cancer returned, this time to her lungs and back. A mother of two and a savvy journalist, Mary Elizabeth knew that the odds of surviving a year with Stage IV melanoma were low, so she decided to take a chance.

She enrolled in a phase I clinical trial at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center conducted by Jedd D. Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D. An associate member of CRI’s Scientific Advisory Council and director of the CRI-LICR Cancer Vaccine Collaborative (CVC), Dr. Wolchok had led clinical trials of ipilimumab, an immunotherapy that blocks the CTLA-4 immune checkpoint molecule and that received FDA approval for the treatment of metastatic melanoma in early 2011.

The new trial would test ipilimumab in combination with another promising experimental immunotherapy, an antibody against the PD-1 inhibitory molecule. After her first treatment with the new combination, the tumor on Mary Elizabeth’s back began to recede, and by January all of her tumors had disappeared. She is still in complete remission today.

Read more about her story here.