Michael D. Becker, a former biotech executive, knows a lot about cancer drug development.
In 2015, he was diagnosed with head and neck cancer, which was caused by human papillomavirus (or HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.
After the diagnosis, Becker — who detailed his experience in “A Walk With Purpose: Memoir of a Bioentrepreneur” — used his expertise in the drug industry to consider possible treatment options. One he was enthusiastic about? Cancer immunotherapy.
Dr. Stegall’s Comments: I share this author’s skepticism regarding immunotherapy. While we have made some important advances with immunotherapy, we have also had significant failures. My concern lies with the fact that the immune system is not a simple on-off swhich, but rather a complex network of surveillance, communication, and action. In my experience, immunotherapy treatments frequently do not work, or, they overstimulate the immune system resulting in autoimmune conditions. Clearly, more research and experience are needed in this area. My prediction is that immunotherapy will prove to be part of an overall integrative approach for some cancers, but it will never be a magic bullet or a cure-all.