Speaker Profile

M.D., Professor and Chairman, Radiation Oncology, NYP, Weill Cornell Medicine

Dr. Formenti is the Chair of Radiation Oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine and the Associate Director of the Cancer Center. Trained as a medical and radiation oncologist she devoted her career to translate novel preclinical information to the clinic. Key to her formation was a year spent in Malcolm Mitchell’s laboratory at USC, in cancer immunology, that inspired her focus on the immune system. Her lab’s original demonstration that the abscopal effect of radiotherapy is immune-mediated has introduced effects of radiation, a paradigm shift in radiation and cancer biology. In this novel application, radiotherapy contributes at recovering an immunological equilibrium in the setting of metastatic cancer, by converting an irradiated metastasis into an in situ, individualized vaccine in the presence of immune checkpoint blockade (anti-CTLA­4, anti-PDL-1). Once successfully immunized against the irradiated site, the host can develop an anti-tumor immune response capable to reject the other metastases. In some patients with metastatic disease the combination of radiation and immune checkpoint blockade has resulted in complete remissions, sustained for years after treatment (without any other additional interventions). Dr. Formenti’s work has been funded by grants from NIH, DOD, ACS and Breast Cancer Research Foundation and is currently leading four investigator-initiated clinical trials of immunotherapy and radiotherapy.

Session Abstract – PMWC 2019 Silicon Valley

Session Synopsis: Cancer immunotherapy, and in particular PD-(L)1 blockade, have made a significant impact on the treatment of cancer patients in recent years. However, despite the remarkable clinical efficacy of these agents in a number of malignancies, it has become clear that they are not sufficiently active for many patients. Initial evidence, for example with combined inhibition of PD-1 and CTLA-4 in melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), has highlighted the potential to further enhance the clinical benefits of monotherapies by combining agents with synergistic mechanisms of action. There are multiple potential rational combinations using an immunotherapy backbone, including existing treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or molecularly targeted agents, as well as other immunotherapies. Rational trial designs based on a clear understanding of tumor biology and drug pharmacology remain critical.

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