Is this new treatment option as “promising” or “revolutionary” as it is touted to be? Here’s what they do not want you to know about Cancer Immunotherapy treatment.
According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 1.6 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2015, while around 600,000 people are likely to die of the disease this year. The most common cancers in 2015 were breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma of the skin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, thyroid cancer, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, and pancreatic cancer. However, the statistics also show that the number of people who will live beyond a cancer diagnosis will touch 19 million by 2024. This indicates an improvement in early detection techniques as well as cancer treatment options. The newest treatment option is that of cancer immunotherapy treatment. Touted to be a “revolutionary” approach to solving the cancer problem, and one of the most “promising” and “encouraging” treatment options out there, here’s the truth about cancer immunotherapy treatment that you ought to know.
What is cancer immunotherapy treatment?
Also known as biologic therapy, cancer immunotherapy treatment is a type of treatment that is designed to improve the body’s immune system and natural defenses to fight cancer. Unlike most other diseases, cancer is not an invading disease. In case of invader diseases, the body’s immune system is designed to fight and target the foreign cells. However, because cancer cells are the body’s own cells that have gone rogue, the immune system is not designed to target them as they are not recognized as foreign cells at all. Cancer immunotherapy treatment uses immunotherapy drugs to switch the immune system back on and target the cancerous cells as they would other foreign bodies.
What are the main types of cancer immunotherapy treatment?
Having been in use for over a decade now, cancer immunotherapy treatment has progressed and improved to a large extent. The main types of cancer immunotherapy treatment that are now in use to treat cancer include:
- Monoclonal antibodies which are synthesized versions of the proteins naturally produced by the immune system. These antibodies are known to be very effective in treating certain types of cancer.
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors are used to deactivate the brakes that are naturally placed in the immune system, so that it can then recognize and annihilate cancer cells.
- Cancer vaccines are used to start an immune response against certain types of cancer to help prevent or treat the condition. These include tumor cell vaccines, antigen vaccines, dendritic cell vaccines, and vector-based vaccines.
- Non-specific immunotherapies are designed to boost the immune system in a generalized way, and still focus on attacking cancer cells.
Is cancer immunotherapy treatment effective?
There are plenty of international studies that are now using a combination of two immunotherapy drugs to treat certain types of cancer. For example, a study designed and conducted by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York tested the use of ipilimumab and nivolumab to prevent melanoma skin cancer from advancing – the test proved effective in more than 58 percent of the cases. Cancer immunotherapy treatment is considered particularly useful for treating cancers that have proven to be difficult to treat by other methods. These include melanomas, advanced lung cancer, and metastasized cancers.
Is there a downside to cancer immunotherapy treatment?
According to Cancer Research UK, though cancer immunotherapy treatment is considered to be “encouraging” and “promising”, the truth is that researchers are still to study long-term survival rates of cancer immunotherapy treatment. Furthermore, the side effects of this treatment option may be severe enough to offset its benefits for certain patients. These side effects include stomach inflammations and severe bowel inflammations requiring hospitalization.
Cancer immunotherapy treatment, especially the ones conducted with two drug combinations, may be a game changer in the long-run. However, this treatment is not yet ready to supersede other treatment options as the most effective cancer treatment option. Surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiotherapy are still more viable options to treat cancer. Cancer immunotherapy treatment in its current form may be used in combination with these other treatment options for optimal results.