Combination Therapies: Immunotherapy Plus Chemotherapy or Radiation

Immunotherapy takes a completely different approach to cancer than traditional chemotherapy and radiation, treating the immune system rather than directly attacking cancer. At Providence Cancer Center, we’re taking advantage of these differences. In several studies, we’ve found that combining these potentially complementary approaches often yields better results than either treatment could achieve on its own.

Innovative combination therapies are available to individuals with a variety of cancers through clinical trials at Providence Cancer Center. Here are some of our recent studies:

1. Anti-TGF-beta Immunotherapy Plus Chemotherapy and Radiation

In her early research, Providence scientist Dr. Kristina Young, M.D., Ph.D., found that combining a novel immunotherapy called a TGF-beta inhibitor with radiation greatly enhanced treatment. TGF-beta blockade eliminates certain types of immune cells that prevent radiation from working and promotes the anti-cancer type of immune cells. Together, these changes allow radiation to work more effectively.

Dr. Young is currently leading a clinical trial of this combined treatment for people with stage II or III rectal cancer who need chemotherapy and radiation, with the hope of improving outcomes.

2. Anti-PD-1 Immunotherapy Plus Chemotherapy

Anti-PD-1, a type of immunotherapy first used to treat advanced melanoma, has recently been shown to be effective against many types of cancer. PD-1 is a protein that inhibits some T-cells from recognizing inflamed tissues and cancer cells. Anti-PD-1 is an antibody that blocks PD-1.

Providence oncologist and researcher Dr. David Page, M.D., is leading a clinical trial combining anti-PD-1 with the best standard chemotherapy for women with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. The hope is that, after the chemotherapy kills some of the cancer cells, the immunotherapy will then help immune cells recognize the residual inflammation at the cancer site and attack any cancer cells that remain.

3. Immunotherapy Plus Radiation

Stereotactic body radiation therapy, or SBRT, has been found not only to shrink tumors, but also to improve the immune system’s reaction to cancer. We offer some of the first clinical trials in the world to combine SBRT with immunotherapy in the hope of improving results for individuals, including this study: