Oncology (General Cancer)/Metastatic cancer


Hello: I read your answer to another person who asked about immunotherapy for her husband,but that was in 2009.I had an older relative who in the late 70s had acute myelogenous leukemia,if I remember correctly,and along with chemo,was treated with BCG,which controlled the disease for some time.
I have another close relative who is currently battling metastatic cancer which began in his throat.He is receiving palliative care at this time,and has declined further chemotherapy.Is there anything else he could try treatment-wise,such as some form of immunotherapy?
I realize most of them are still experimental,but remembering how BCG helped my older relative,I was wondering if he has any treatment options at this point? Thanks

Throat cancer, along with most "epithelial cancers" like lung and gastrointestinal cancers, are not immunologically very different from normal tissues, and immunotherapy has not been successful in these entities.  For immunotherapy to work, it's important that the cancer be immunologically different enough for the immune system to recognize it.  A major breakthrough in the treatment of lymphomas was the development of an antibody against CD-20, which is expressed on about 80% of lymphomas.  When a patient receives this, however, a whole class of lymphocytes disappears from the body for about a year, leaving the patient more susceptible to certain infections.  Research on immunotherapy for epithelial cancers is not being actively pursued by many centers.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Donald Higby, M.D.


I can answer almost all questions related to the treatment and natural course of most kinds of cancer, especially cancers of prostate, colon, lung and breast.


I have been a practicing medical oncologist for 36 years, and have been chief of service at a major medical center for 25 years. I've also done research in cancer treatments.

American Society of Clinical Oncology

New England Journal of Medicine American Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Hematology Transfusion Medicine

MD, Stanford University Internal Medicine residency, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO Medical Oncology Fellowship, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

Awards and Honors
America's Best Physicians, last 14 years

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.