The battle against cancer seems never-ending, and cancer treatment is often almost as bad as the disease itself. Harsh chemicals pumped into the bodies of cancer patients cause devastating side effects that lead some to decide to stop treatment entirely. Worse, many chemotherapy treatments have become virtually ineffective, leaving some patients with advanced cancers very little time left to live. Immunotherapy, however, shows promise for cancer treatment, using the body’s own defenses to fight disease.
- What is immunotherapy? Also known as biologic therapy, immunotherapy is cancer treatment that utilizes the body’s defense systems to fight cancer. For some reason, our bodies don’t always recognize cancer as a threat. Some researchers have made the observation that cancer, like HIV, has a sort of “secret handshake” that allows it to get past t-cells, and immunotherapy seeks to disrupt this. To do this, medications are developed to improve, target, or restore the function of the immune system.
- Why is there renewed interest right now? Immunotherapy has been in the works since the 1970s, but for many years the pharmaceutical companies were not interested, because they felt that other medications had more money-making potential. New trials, though, that combine a newly licensed drug called ipilimumab with a not-yet-licensed drug called nivolumab, have shown great promise. In fact the two drugs together shrank tumors in 58% of melanoma patients involved in the trials, and researchers are hoping for similar results with other cancers. These trials have inspired a great deal of interest and excitement in the scientific community. Another interesting development may be the use of aspirin to boost the effectiveness of immunotherapy. In trials with mice, aspirin has been shown to help immunotherapy drugs to substantially shrink tumors; if the same results are seen in human trials, it could drastically reduce the cost of cancer treatment.
- What’s the future of immunotherapy? As more research yields results, and our knowledge grows, immunotherapy will improve and become more effective in treating cancers. Targeted and personalized therapies are currently being further explored, as are combination therapies, and there are several avenues which show great promise for the future of immunotherapy.
In our clinic, we embrace an integrated approach to wellness, combining traditional Western medicine with alternative therapies, in order treat our patients’ whole bodies and avoid just treating symptoms. We also strive to offer our patients the most up to date information on medical treatments and therapies, to help them stay abreast of the best medical care available. For more information about what our clinic has to offer, visit our website or call today for a free consultation.