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Developing Immunotherapies for Endometrial and Ovarian Cancers

In This Video

  • Rather than medicine that kills a tumor but also has off-target effects that hurts normal cells within a person's body, immune therapy awakens the immune system and unmasks the tumor as foreign to the body
  • Research has shown that this avenue of therapy is important for endometrial cancer, as well as ovarian cancer
  • Endometrial cancer tumors are highly reliant on cloaking from the immune system and have been used when developing agents that target individual immune checkpoints
  • Whitfield Growdon, MD, discusses how immunotherapy could someday become a blueprint for treating all cancers

In this video, Whitfield Growdon, MD, a specialist in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the Mass General Cancer Center and a researcher in the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology, discusses the development of immunotherapy, found to be particularly important for endometrial and ovarian cancers.


One of the most exciting developments in the last 15 years in oncology is the development of immune therapy. Rather than giving medicines that kill a tumor but also have bystander effects and hurt normal cells within a person's body, what we're doing is giving them medicine that suddenly awakens the immune system so that these tumors that developed were tolerated by our bodies. Our immune system didn't recognize them as foreign. But these medicines act to unmask that and uncouple that, and they attack tumors at this vital event that tumors use to escape our immune surveillance.

Work that has been done here at the Mass General Cancer Center as well as in the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology, has shown that this avenue of therapy is actually very important for endometrial cancer, as well as ovarian cancer.

We've been able to demonstrate looking at a broad number of endometrial cancers, that these tumors are highly reliant upon these methods of cloaking from the immune system. We've worked with various different companies to essentially create a molecular landscape that allows us to see which tumors of which specific histologic subtype express which specific immune cloaking devices, and then we've gotten the opportunity to work with companies that have a panoply of agents that specifically target individual immune checkpoints. This lends the opportunity towards the personalization of immune therapy. This is, I think, a blueprint for how we're going to treat all cancers someday, and my hope is that we can bring this to the care of our women here at Massachusetts General Hospital in the near future.

Learn more about the Center for Gynecologic Oncology

Refer a patient to the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology


Researchers are working to develop next-generation tailored treatment protocols for ovarian cancer utilizing precision medicine techniques.


In 2014, Mass General embraced a plan to design and implement a large-scale patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) project across 90 specialties. The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has been a leader in PROMs with robust collection in Gynecologic Oncology, Obstetrics, and Pelvic Floor Disorders.