Tags: Cancer | immunotherapy | cancer | treatment

Immunotherapy Transforms Cancer Treatment

By    |   Friday, 05 December 2014 03:03 PM

The idea of arming and boosting the body’s own immune system to combat cancer is quickly moving from the realm of dreams to reality. Scientists are increasingly studying the growing group of cancer survivors to determine how the immunotherapy can be used to target some of the most lethal and resistant forms of cancer.

The study of so-called “super-survivors” by a number of scientific organizations is transforming the world of oncology and fueling the growth of immunotherapy drugs — medications that don’t target tumors directly, but unleash the body’s own defense systems to attack cancer, the Wall Street Journal reports.
 
With immunotherapy, “We’re treating the immune system, not the cancer,” says James Allison, M.D., head of immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, whose research has laid the groundwork for many of the current advances in the field.
 
Cancer immunotherapy takes several forms. Drugs called “checkpoint inhibitors” work by releasing the natural brakes on the immune system, enabling cancer-destroying killer T cells, to attack tumors.
 
An analysis of 4,846 advanced melanoma patients treated with one checkpoint inhibitor — Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Yervoy — found that 21 percent were still alive three years later, more than 1,000 people experts say y would have died otherwise.
 
Newer drugs that work similarly to Yervoy are getting even better results and are extending the benefits beyond melanoma to other cancers.
 
Immunotherapy is still in its early stages, and more studies are needed. But researchers and drug makers believe the study of super-survivors can help them better understand how to enlist the immune system to fight cancer and design effective therapies. More than 25 companies are pursuing some form of immunotherapy.
 
The efforts are a departure from most current cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery in that the new medicines target genetic mutations underlying a tumor’s growth.

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Arming boosting the body's own immune system to combat cancer is quickly moving from the realm of dreams to reality. Scientists are increasingly studying the growing group of cancer survivors to determine how the immunotherapy can be used to target tumors.
immunotherapy, cancer, treatment
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2014-03-05
Friday, 05 December 2014 03:03 PM
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