Using the Body’s Immune System to Fight Cancer
Cancer generally refers to a collection of diseases where cells in the body divide uncontrollably and spread into surrounding tissues, causing internal damage and often death.
Old Paradigm – Chemotherapy and Radiation
For decades, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy have been the standards of care for cancer treatment, and often times the only options. They operate on the basic premise that cancer cells are fast growing cells, so using powerful toxic chemicals (chemotherapy) or power x-rays (radiation) they hope to kill those cells to stop the cancer. The problem is that these treatments are not always very targeted, so they also kill normal fast-growing cells, such as hair cells, intestine cells, mouth-lining cells and others. This inadvertent side effect of killing healthy cells is what causes the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and a reduced quality of life for cancer patients.
Using "chemo" has been likened to throwing a grenade into the body in hope that it will kill the cancer and not the body.
New Paradigm – Immunotherapy and Vaccines
Conversely, immunotherapy is like using a sniper rifle to shoot and kill only the cancer cells.
In recent years, advances in science and biotechnology have proven that the body's own immune system is actually quite effective at targeting and killing abnormal cells, germs and viruses, and has been doing it since the beginning of time. The main problem is that cancer grows at a much faster rate than the body's normal immune response rate.
Much like COVID-19 vaccines that train the body to recognize and destroy the coronavirus, cancer vaccines can train the body to target and destroy specific cancer cells. Cancer vaccines are also known as immunotherapy.
Types of Immunotherapy
According to the National Cancer Institute, there are several types of immunotherapy.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors, which are drugs that block immune checkpoints. These checkpoints are a normal part of the immune system and keep immune responses from being too strong. By blocking them, these drugs allow immune cells to respond more strongly to cancer.
Example blockbuster immunotherapy drugs:
- Keytruda (Merck)
- Opdivo (Bristol Myers Squibb)
T-cell transfer therapy, which is a personalized treatment that boosts the natural ability of the body’s immune T-cells to fight cancer. In this treatment, immune cells are taken from the tumor. Those that are most active against the cancer are selected or genetically modified in the lab to better attack your cancer cells, grown in large batches, and put back into the body through an injection.
Monoclonal antibodies, which are immune system proteins created in the lab that are designed to bind to specific targets on cancer cells. Some monoclonal antibodies mark cancer cells so that they will be better seen and destroyed by the immune system. Such monoclonal antibodies are a type of immunotherapy.
As a point of reference, the Pfizer and Modern COVID-19 vaccines are monoclonal antibodies for the coronavirus.
Treatment vaccines, which work against cancer by boosting the immune system’s response to cancer cells. Treatment vaccines are different from the ones that help prevent disease.
Immune system modulators, which enhance the body's immune response against cancer. Some of these agents affect specific parts of the immune system, whereas others affect the immune system in a more general way.
To significantly improve the clinical outcomes of cancer patients through the development of innovative and effective cancer immunotherapy treatments and drugs by collaborating with leading medical researchers and clinicians.