Cancer immunotherapy includes a range of treatments that use your own immune system to fight this often deadly disease. Proponents of these methods of treating cancer have been muted for decades, their research summarily dismissed as “new age” medicine.
As it turns out, your body wants to fight cancer as badly as it fights stomach flu or infection. It simply has a blind spot when it comes to cancerous cells.
Immunotherapy is the act of targeting the immune system rather than the tumor – and the results to date are fairly astounding.
Named as Science Magazine’s Breakthrough of the Year in 2013, columnist Jennifer Couzin-Frankel wrote, “Immunotherapy marks an entirely different way of treating cancer – by targeting the immune system, not the tumor itself. Oncologists, a grounded-in-reality bunch, say a corner has been turned and we won’t be going back.”
By ramping up your own natural defense system to fight for you, you increase your chances of beating cancer if you are diagnosed.
Biological Response Modifier Therapy
This type of immunotherapy provides your immune system with natural (made in your body) or synthetic (created in a lab) substances and proteins to boost your ability to fight disease.
Compounds created from living or lab-created organisms are used as a sort of cancer vaccine containing cancer-based antigens that boost immunity against all destructive cells in your body. They have shown promise against cancer cells but are not specifically targeting those cells.
Other Targeted Cancer Therapies
Using DNA material, scientists have also been able to create targeted cancer antibodies that inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Different from chemotherapy – which kills healthy cells along with cancer cells – targeted therapies work on the cellular level with specific identifiers based on your genes and the proteins present in your cancer. Removing the blind spot, targeted therapies are a more precise treatment that has shown incredible results in stopping the growth and survival of cancer cells.
Targeted cancer therapies are rapidly becoming part of traditional medicine’s arsenal against cancer. Here are some of the most common according to the National Cancer Institute:
Hormone therapies – many cancers are hormone-sensitive (such as breast and prostate) and utilize hormones to grow and spread. Hormone therapies interfere with the hormones required – slowing, and delaying growth. (Note that drugs such as tamoxifen are actually classified as chemotherapy and are quite toxic).
Signal transduction inhibitors inhibit the improper signaling that occurs among cancer cells. Normally a cell will respond to signals from its environment. Sometimes, however, cancerous cells are stimulated to replicate without being prompted by this signaling process. Signal transduction inhibitors discourage the improper signaling that occurs among these malignant cells.
Apoptosis inducers boost this natural process in your body. Also known as “cell suicide” – cells that are damaged usually know to destroy themselves. Cancer cells do not follow this protocol but an increase in apoptosis-inducers can force the death of cancer cells.
Angiogenesis inhibitors prevent cancerous tumors from getting the blood supply they require to continue to grow. By removing the blood, necessary nutrients and oxygen required for growth and replication are denied. Essentially the tumor starves to death.
Monoclonal antibodies are toxins that piggyback on molecules to target cancer cells specifically without causing damage to healthy cells lacking the biomarkers specified. Since non-cancerous cells will not possess this antibody, the treatment is highly precise.
Some targeted treatments are already in use in the fight against cancer. Others are still in human trials to determine safety and efficacy. Some of the above are being used as complementary methods of treatment in conjunction with chemotherapy as they are not effective as stand-alone treatments.
Potential Drawbacks to Cancer Immunotherapy
Cancer immunotherapy is showing great promise. However, there are some major drawbacks to them as well as other targeted therapies. One is that cancer cells can become resistant to them. Hence, often times two or more therapies are used simultaneously or concurrently to improve efficacy.
Unfortunately that leads to drawback number two. When combined, a patient will then suffer additional quality of life and quantity-of-life side effects.
Immunotherapies, like other targeted and conventional therapies, come with a host of side effects. The most common side effect is diarrhea and liver problems. There is also the risk that the response can be excessive, triggering something similar to an autoimmune disorder.
Patients have also reported significant inflammatory responses such as pneumontitis (cough and difficulty breathing) and colitis. Others have developed pancreatitis, rashes, and endocrine, adrenal and thyroid issues. Not to mention other unpleasant conditions. Interestingly, these conditions are then treated with immune suppressing drugs… go figure.
Because immunotherapies use your built-in immune system functions for better results in recognizing, targeting, and destroying cancer cells, they are something that deserves some attention and further study. In the meantime, you will find less toxic cancer fighting and prevention option here on the The Truth About Cancer website.
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-Immunotherapy is the act of targeting the immune system rather than the tumor. It was named as Science Magazine’s Breakthrough of the Year in 2013.
-By ramping up your own natural defense system to fight for you, you increase your chances of beating cancer if you are diagnosed.
-Biological Response Modifier Therapy is a type of immunotherapy that provides your immune system with natural (made in your body) or synthetic (created in a lab) substances and proteins to boost your ability to fight disease.
-Using DNA material, scientists have also been able to create targeted cancer antibodies that inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Here are some of the more common types:
*Signal transduction inhibitors
*Like other targeted and conventional therapies, immunotherapies come with a host of side effects. The most common is diarrhea and liver problems.
Because immunotherapies use your built-in immune system functions for better results in recognizing, targeting, and destroying cancer cells, they deserve further study. In the meantime, you will find less toxic cancer fighting and prevention option here at the The Truth About Cancer.