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Figuring Out Who It'll Work For

For some patients with serious cancers, immunotherapies have provided dramatic results, the Associated Press writes. But, it notes that such treatments might only give temporary relief, don't work for everyone, and can actually make the situation worse for some. Plus, they can be expensive. And so, the AP adds, patients want to know if it'll work for them.

Clinicians and researchers are searching for markers that might tell them whether checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies will work for a given patient. One marker that's in use is the protein PD-L1 as it is targeted by a number of checkpoint inhibitors, but the AP notes that it's not very precise.

Instead, it adds that researchers are looking globally at the number of mutated genes a patient's cancer harbors, as an indicator that the tumor has been evolving. Others, meanwhile, are examining the overall state of patients' immune systems to see if a factor there might predict how patients respond.

"When you respond, it's a home run in terms of long-term survival," Steven O'Day from Providence Saint John's Health Center tells the AP. "But we still have to be better at predicting who those patients are."