Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

Immunotherapy and Cancer

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immunotherapyDI recently published an article on “Food for Thought-Immune System.” This was an article written by Greg and was one of many posts he had completed, ready to be published on his much-loved web site after his death in September. The bodies immune system had captured Greg’s attention from the beginning of his illness and throughout his posts on this site, can be found many articles and references to helping our immune systems stay healthy. Greg swore by his personal use of daily lactofferin tablets to boost his immune system and the daily use of the cream progesterone to help balance his hormone levels.

I thought it may be of interest to present to readers some information regarding the current medical research into this field and the new developments of treatments for cancer based on a persons immune system.

I am no expert on this subject and as a result some of the information here is quoted directly from other articles that I uncovered during my searches on this issue. While there is still much to absorb for me in this area I am heartened to see the medical responses being taken along these pathways.

What is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is also sometimes called biologic therapy or biotherapy. It is treatment that uses certain parts of the immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. This can be done in a couple of ways:

  1. Stimulating your own immune system to work harder or smarter to attack cancer cells
  2. Giving your immune system components, such as man-made immune system proteins

Immunotherapy includes a wide variety of treatments that work in different ways. Some seem to work by boosting the body’s immune system in a very general way. Others help train the immune system to attack cancer cells specifically.

Immunotherapy seems to work better for some types of cancer than for others. It is used by itself to treat some cancers, but for many cancers it seems to work best when used along with other types of treatment.

As researchers have learned more about the body’s immune system in recent years, they have begun to figure out how it might be used to treat cancer more effectively. Newer treatments now being tested seem to work better and will have a greater impact on the outlook for people with cancer in the future.

Emerging Cancer Treatments.

From very early on, researchers and doctors have dreamed of using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. The big question has been why doesn’t the immune system attack the tumor cells that invade healthy tissue?

The really good news is that finally science is catching up with this vision.

Therapeutic cancer vaccines that can actually activate a patient’s immune system against a cancer and help prevent a recurrence are finally starting to become a reality. Our hope is that we will be able to achieve the early promise of cancer vaccines and use them as a part of our standard arsenal in fighting cancer.

“We really are in a transformative moment,’’ said Dr. Glenn Dranoff, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a medical oncologist and immunologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Men with advanced prostate cancer have been the first to realize a benefit from immunotherapy with the vaccine Provenge, a therapeutic vaccine that recently received federal approval. The results of the critical phase 3 trial showed that Provenge both was safe and extended survival in men with advanced prostate cancer

Not too long after the approval of Provenge another cancer vaccine received FDA approval, Yervoy (ipilimumab). It was approved for people with metastatic melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. Cancer generally limits the body’s immune response to a tumor; Yervoy turns the immune system back on, enhancing the immune system’s ability to kill cancer cells. Yervoy is now in clinical trials to treat advanced prostate cancer.

The even better news is that currently there are many other potential cancer vaccines under development including trials for patients with breast, prostate, lung, kidney, colon, cervical, brain, and pancreatic cancers, as well as lymphomas. Like in Yervoy, if a trial is shown to be effective in one type of cancer they will probably then be tried to combat other cancers.

immunotherapyBThis is a revolution that has gotten started, and I think the next few years will tell the story,” said Garo Armen, chief executive of Agenus Inc, which makes the QS-21 adjuvant, a drug used to boost the immune response to Glaxo’s experimental vaccines for lung cancer and melanoma. The basic idea remains the same – train a patient’s immune system to attack the cancer.

So the question I ask that cannot be answered at this time:


Lee aka Popeye

Further reading

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