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Questions About Cancer Immunotherapy? Ask a Scientist!

May 06, 2016

We’re excited to present our newest educational initiative for patients—the Ask a Scientist video series. The series will feature scientific experts across a range of cancer types answering pressing questions from patients about cancer immunotherapy.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find answers from medical experts that are short, sweet, and most importantly, easy to understand—but the Ask a Scientist Video Series does just that. In each video, our experts in immunotherapy will answer one question, like “What types of immunotherapies are available for my type of cancer?” or, “What makes someone a good candidate for immunotherapy?”

The Ask a Scientist video series launches this month with David Reardon, M.D., clinical director of the Center for Neuro-Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and member of the Cancer Research Institute’s Clinical Trial Network. Tune in each Thursday in May (May 5, 12, 19, and 26) to hear Dr. Reardon discuss immunotherapy in connection to brain tumors (including glioblastoma) as part of Brain Tumor Awareness Month.

Don’t forget to check out the series throughout the year, as the Ask a Scientist video series will continuously feature new experts and different cancer types.

Ask a Scientist About Immunotherapy and Brain Tumors Video Playlist

Is immunotherapy for all types of brain tumors? 

Immunotherapy is being studied for many different types of brain cancer, typically the most common brain cancers, such as glioblastoma. With more experience, promise, and benefit in common types, scientists and clinicians can move into rarer brain cancers.

What can I expect from a vaccine trial for glioblastoma? 

Vaccine studies in glioblastoma have provided reassurance. Vaccines are given as a small injection under the skin. They have been well-tolerated with few side effects. Patients may experience redness and a little swelling at the injection site. An allergic reaction is rare and allergy medicines can mitigate those reactions.

How can I best take care of myself during immunotherapy?

Communicate regularly and effectively with your care team, including physicians, nurses, and research coordinators. The care team can more effectively manage and treat side effects if informed early. Maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep your immune system as strong as possible.

Can immunotherapy affect cognitive function?

Clinicians treating patients with brain cancer wish to help their patients both live longer and live well: to think, keep track of things, interact with others, and do day-to-day things. Immunotherapy is not expected to have an impact on those types of brain functions. The tumor and conventional treatments can have an impact on cognitive function, so it can be difficult to tease out what the actual cause of any cognitive impairments.

When should I ask about immunotherapy trials for glioblastoma? 

Immunotherapy is believed to have an impact if used from the beginning and integrated with other standard treatments. Seek out information on clinical trials for glioblastoma after diagnosis, both locally and online, such as the Cancer Research Institute Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder.

The Ask a Scientist video series are part of CRI's Answer to Cancer patient education program. If you're interested in more Ask a Scientist video series, please contact us.

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*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

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