Decloaking Cancer: New therapies unmask tumors that hide from immune system

Story by Jennifer Brown

At first it felt like a hamstring pull, but the pain didn’t go away. Then a lump appeared. Trent Phillips’ surgeon in Cedar Falls ordered an MRI, and when the results came back, he had bad news. He told Phillips, a graphic designer from Jesup, Iowa, that the lump might be a sarcoma.

Sarcomas are rare tumors that form in bones and soft tissue, including muscle and tendons. While treatments for many cancers have improved markedly over the past few decades, sarcoma remains stubbornly resistant to new therapies. Almost no progress has been made to increase survival rates for sarcoma in the last 30 years.

Phillips’ surgeon referred him to Mohammed “Mo” Milhem, MD, a medical oncologist and national expert in sarcoma and melanoma at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa. Milhem immediately had a plan. He wanted to enroll Phillips as the first patient in a brand new clinical trial only available at the UI sarcoma clinic.

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