Time after time, Steven A. Rosenberg, chief of the surgery branch in the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Clinical Oncology Program, has seen cancer immunotherapy destroy melanomas that conventional therapies leave unmolested. When immunotherapy works, even bulky metastatic tumors are destroyed. The frustration and tragedy, he says, speaking recently to a Grand Rounds audience at the National Institutes of Health, "is that it happens in only a small percentage of patients."

For nearly 20 years Rosenberg's research at the NCI has probed how the immune system responds to cancer and set the pace for developing this new form of cancer therapy. He and his colleagues pioneered the isolation of tumor antigens that activate cytotoxic T cells against cancers, especially melanomas, and are working out new therapies based on those antigens. Rosenberg's reward is seeing therapy response rates slowly climb to about one-third of his patients.

Steven A. Rosenberg

Now researchers...

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