Ovarian Cancer Immunotherapy: Karla Robles’ Bold Approach to Rewrite the Story

Despite its success in treating other cancers, immunotherapy for ovarian cancer only boasts a 6-15% success rate. The reasons behind this disparity are complex, but PhD student, Karla Robles, is determined to change this narrative. Making this research even more critical is the alarming fact that while Black women are less likely to develop ovarian cancer than white women, they are significantly more likely to die from it (National Library of Medicine). This stark disparity underscores the urgent need for innovative treatments that address the unique challenges faced by diverse patient populations.

Potential Benefits of Immunotherapy for Underserved Populations:

  • Addressing Disparities: Certain cancers disproportionately affect underserved populations due to various factors like genetics, environmental exposures, and access to care. Immunotherapy could help narrow these disparities if made accessible and affordable. It is important to note that people of color are historically underrepresented in clinical trials, and moving forward equitable access would be necessary to address the needs of a diverse population.
  • Personalized Treatment: Immunotherapy can be tailored to an individual’s tumor, potentially offering more effective treatment for diverse populations with unique genetic and cancer characteristics. Additionally, immunotherapy is based on reactivating the patients own immune system to target the cancer. If done correctly, it can bypass the need to “poison” the cancer, avoiding chemotherapy.

Traditional immunotherapy involves injecting therapeutic agents intravenously. These agents then embark on a journey through the bloodstream, navigating their way to the ovaries. Along this path, they face several obstacles:

  • Lymphatic System Removal: The body’s lymphatic system, designed to filter out foreign substances, can prematurely remove the immunotherapeutic agent before it reaches its intended target.
  • Off-Target Binding: During circulation, the therapeutic may bind to unintended targets, leading to unwanted side effects and diminishing its effectiveness.

These challenges result in low bioavailability, meaning only a small fraction of the therapeutic agent reaches the tumor site.

A Targeted, Sustained-Release Approach

Karla Robles envisions a different approach: a targeted, sustained-release immunotherapy for ovarian cancer. Her research focuses on microencapsulation techniques which involve encapsulating antibody-based immunotherapies within tiny microcapsules. These microcapsules can be injected directly near the tumor site, bypassing the challenges associated with intravenous delivery. The benefits of this approach are significant:

  • Enhanced Bioavailability: By delivering the therapeutic agent directly to the tumor, bioavailability is maximized, ensuring a higher concentration of the agent reaches its target.
  • Sustained Release: Microcapsules can be designed to release the therapeutic agent slowly over time, providing sustained treatment and minimizing the need for frequent injections.
  • Reduced Side Effects: Off-target binding is minimized, leading to fewer adverse effects.

A Brighter Future for Ovarian Cancer Patients

Karla Robles’ research is not just a scientific endeavor; it’s a beacon of hope for countless women affected by ovarian cancer. By tackling the challenges that have hindered immunotherapies success, Robles is paving the way for a brighter future where this method of treatment can finally fulfill its potential for ovarian cancer patients. This research was a multi-institutional collaboration between Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, and Vanderbilt University, and many across each institution have made this work possible.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *