Being that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world today many are questioning whether cancer is ever going to be curable. Some experts say that cancer is already cured; others say it is not even close to being cured.
What do you need to know about cancer treatment plans?
Most experts would argue that it has not been cured but researchers are close to finding a solid therapy.
BBC news explains, “But something truly exciting is happening - the field of immunotherapy is coming of age. It will not be a universal ‘cure’ but immunotherapy is fast becoming a powerful new weapon alongside chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.”
How does your immune system help?
A person’s immune system is their body's internal guardian and protector as it purges anything that is not theirs. The immune system is proven to have a series of checks and brakes in the system that prevent the immune system turning on healthy tissue (this is what goes wrong in autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis).
How does cancer affect the immune system, how do they become intertwined?
Cancer is a corrupted form of healthy tissue and can masquerade as normal to avoid our immune defenses. Some researchers say that the disease acts out the chemical equivalent of screaming move along, nothing to see here.
How does it do this?
Cancer does this by creating proteins on its surface that perform a chemical handshake with immune system cells to turn them off.
“The immunotherapy drugs that have got people excited are like an oven-mitt that covers one of the hands, preventing the handshake,” according to BBC news.
The results of the study, which was led in the United Kingdom, showed that immunotherapy could be extremely effective. Research showed that 60% of advanced melanoma skin cancers shrank in size when two immunotherapies were administered. Experts are saying that the dual treatment stopped some of these fatal cancers from advancing for almost twelve months.
The American society of Clinical Oncology announcement came two days after another immunotherapy trial proved that some lung cancer patients had their life expectancy doubled after taking immunotherapy medications.
There are some areas of caution though. BBC reports, “These drugs do not work equally in everyone. Some people do spectacularly well, some do ok, and some do not respond at all.”
How come immunotherapies work better in some than others?
Researchers say that the reason why is still unclear.
There are many possible reasons for the disparity.
Long-term side effects are also a major uncertainty. Will the change to the immune system heighten the threat of autoimmune diseases? “So far the side effects seem to appear only during treatment, but long-term follow of patients who do respond has not taken place,” according to the BBC.
Researchers are continuing to look into how much immunotherapy can help melanoma and lung cancer patients.