Immunotherapy to Treat Cancer

Cancer immunotherapy clinical trials are critical to bringing new and potentially lifesaving treatments to more patients with more types of cancer.  Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps your immune system fight cancer. The immune system helps your body fight infections and other diseases. It is made up of white blood cells and organs and tissues of the lymph system.

Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy, a treatment that uses substances made from living organisms to treat cancer. >>Read more



Immunotherapy Clinical Trials: Sue Scott’s Story of Survival

What is  immunotherapy? Cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology, is a form of cancer treatment that uses the power of the body’s own immune system to prevent, control, and eliminate cancer. The focus of immunology research is to develop more effective ways to stimulate innate and adaptive immune responses to human tumors and to translate the most promising novel immunotherapies to cancer patients on clinical trials.

In October of 2011 Sue Scott was diagnosed with Stage 1B2 Cervical Cancer and completed what appeared to be successful treatment. Within 3 months there was evidence of active cancer cells, and her doctors told her that an Immunotherapy Clinical Trial was her only treatment option. See her success story here.

Bringing Research to the Community to Reduce Cancer Disparities

Bringing Research to the Community to Reduce Cancer Disparities was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.

Approximately 85% of cancer patients in the United States receive care in community settings, not at academic medical centers where most clinical trials take place. This is certainly true in South Carolina, where Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) serves as the state’s only NCI-Designated Cancer Center.

More than 30% of the people in South Carolina are minorities, and more than 40% live in rural areas. These individuals can often face logistical and financial challenges when trying to access clinical trials. For example, for someone who lives several hours from MUSC, receiving care there would take an entire day. “A lost day’s work equals a lost day’s pay” for many people in South Carolina, said Chanita Hughes-Halbert, a nationally recognized leader in cancer disparities research and behavioral science at MUSC.

Being able to join research studies in a person’s own community allows them to miss less time at work, stay close to family and friends, and reduces the burden of participation in research while increasing the quality of their care. To enhance patient access to clinical trials and facilitate the participation of community providers in cancer research, NCI launched the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) in 2014. Forty-six community sites comprise NCORP, each of which partners with other cancer care providers in their region.

Twelve of the NCORP sites are minority/underserved community sites that have patient populations of at least 30% racial/ethnic minorities or rural residents. One of the minority/underserved sites is MUSC, which brought together community care organizations across the state as a result of its NCORP grant. Chanita leads the NCORP site along with public health researcher Marvella Ford, Ph.D., and hematologist/oncologist Carolyn Britten, M.D. The NCORP grant created a “team spirit” among the collaborating organizations and is facilitating interaction among researchers in different disciplines that traditionally are siloed, said Chanita.

Enhancing participation of patients in precision medicine trials is particularly important, Chanita said, because finding and subdividing patients into distinct groups based on the genomic characteristics of their tumors is “like looking for a needle in a haystack.” She added, “A national effort is required to increase the pace of this research and for it to be successful.”

As evidence of this, NCORP sites are playing a critical role in the NCI Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice (NCI-MATCH) trial, in which patients are assigned to receive treatment based on the genetic changes in their tumors. The number of patients in the trial increased from 3,000 to 6,000, thanks to increased resources provided by NCI’s regular appropriation.

The trial reached its goal of sequencing the tumors of 6,000 patients in June 2017, nearly 2 years sooner than expected due to wide-scale adoption of the trial throughout NCORP and NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN). The unprecedented rate of patient enrollment was accomplished by more than 1,100 academic centers and community hospitals in all 50 states and Puerto Rico and is reaching traditionally underrepresented rural populations.

The MUSC NCORP grant is supporting enhanced access to clinical trials with a focus on minority and underserved communities with the goal of reducing cancer disparities. “Efforts to enroll more diverse patients helps ensure that we don’t get to the end of trials and realize we won’t be able to understand how treatments will work in different populations,” concluded Chanita.

South Florida Surgical Oncology, A 21st Century Oncology Practice, Performs Its First Robotic-Assisted Operation

FORT MYERS, Fla.July 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — South Florida Surgical Oncology, a division of 21st Century Oncology, the largest integrated cancer care network in America, has recently completed its first advanced robotic gastrointestinal operation at Lee Memorial Hospital. A minimally invasive procedure, robotic surgery potentially shortens hospital stays, minimizes pain and helps patients recover faster.  

“Robotic technology provides great precision, allowing us to perform very fine movements and dissection,” said Dr. Bassan Allan, a surgical oncologist at South Florida Surgical Oncology. “We can do so much more using robotic technology as compared to conventional laparoscopy.”

Though robotic surgery has been in use for some time, few facilities offer it for advanced gastrointestinal cancer surgeries. South Florida Surgical Oncology is also among only a handful of practices using this groundbreaking technology for high-volume pancreatic surgery.

When performing robotic-assisted surgery, the surgeon sits in a console next to the patient and controls the machine’s robotic arms. Images are projected in 3D high resolution.

Dr. Allan and his partner, Dr. Mark Bloomston, trained extensively in the usage of robotic technology. They can use the robotic-assisted technology for both benign and malignant diseases. Patients in the Southwest Florida community are excited to learn that South Florida Surgical Oncology now offers robotic-assisted surgery. What’s more, patients from other areas in Florida are also coming to Drs. Allan and Bloomston for treatment in this technique.

“Some patients are seeking it out, searching online for surgeons who perform robotic surgery,” Dr. Allan said. “It’s a great tool to have at our disposal.”

To learn more about Dr. Allan and Dr. Bloomston and the procedures they perform, visit their website at

About 21st Century Oncology
21st Century Oncology is the nation’s largest integrated cancer care network. Operating as one dream team in the crusade against cancer, the company carries out its mission with the mindset of “fighting for patients like an army and caring for them like a family.” 21st Century Oncology employs or is affiliated with 1,000 physicians globally to deliver the most advanced, integrated and compassionate cancer care in personal and convenient settings. Headquartered in Fort Myers, FL, 21st Century Oncology operates 164 treatment centers, including 127 centers located in 15 U.S. states. In addition, the company operates 37 centers located in seven countries in Latin America. For more information, please visit

Cancer Clinical Trials at Lee Health, Fort Myers, FL

At SCOR member site Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL, “We’re trying to move to the next level where we get more specific with the treatments, and we can target in on the gene mutation that’s causing cancer,” said Dr. Lowell Hart, an oncologist on the medical staff there. Depending on the type of cancer, patients may qualify for a clinical trial. “We try to offer clinical trials whenever they are available because obviously, none of the progress that we’ve made in cancer in the last 20-30 years would be possible without patients going on to trials,” said Dr. Hart. A clinical trial gives patients access to new drugs that aren’t FDA approved. Currently, there are many ongoing clinical trials for breast, lung, and colorectal cancers.

With early detection, prevention, and more effective treatments, doctors say the cancer survival rate is improving. “We are not quite to the point we want to be at yet, but I’m hopeful that sometime in the next 10 years or so we may get to the point where we can turn cancer into of a chronic illness that even if you can’t be completely cured, you can just keep living with it,” said Dr. Hart. With a goal to prolong life, clinical trials can help doctors give patients the best treatment possible to help them overcome cancer.

Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.