Cancer continues to take human lives daily, and the battle for a cure continues forth. Unfortunately, current practiced approaches towards cancer treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can often cause more bodily harm than good. These treatments can force a body to experience unpleasant side effects and even result in killing more good cells in the body than taking care of the malignant cancerous cells.
Doctors, scientists, and cancer specialists are continually pioneering and developing new treatments for better overall approaches to eliminating cancer. New methods such as immunotherapy offer an alternative direction to target and attack cancer cells that can circumvent severe reactions while providing positive and productive results.
Dr. Kevin Dalby is director of the Targeted Therapeutic Drug Discovery & Development Program (TTP), and the principal investigator on a $4.9 million CPRIT grant that gives Texas scientists access to resources for drug discovery research. By understanding cancel cell signaling and having expertise in chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, Dr. Dalby works to improve diagnoses and utilize technological advances to develop targeted pharmaceuticals for different cancers.
Dr. Dalby's familiarity with the cutting-edge progression of immunotherapy makes him a reliable source to further elaborate on the importance and optimism behind this new way to fight cancer.
What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy, also referred to as biologic therapy, approaches cancer treatment by improving the body's immune system. Naturally made substances from living organisms or substances human-made in a laboratory is utilized to restore or enhance the functionality of the immune system to fight off cancer cells effectively.
How does immunotherapy fight cancer?
The human body's natural shield against infections such as viruses or bacteria is its immune system. The average immune system can indeed kill cancer cells, but not effectively enough to the point of naturally winning the cancer battle. Cancer cells continuously evolve by adapting and mutating. This evolution, which leads to tumor development, can allow cancer cells to be undetectable, bypassing the immune system's ability to identify and attack abnormal cells.
Several camouflage methods cancer cells use to avoid destruction from the body's natural defense system include undergoing genetic changes, impeding on the immune system's response to cancer cells by converting the normal cells around the tumor, or turning off immune cells through their surface proteins.
Through the use of additional substances, immunotherapy enables the body's immune system to detect, target proactively, and destroy cancerous cells. This type of cancer treatment also assists in halting or decreasing the speed at which cancer cells grow or prevent cancer from spreading to any other part of the body.
Types of Immunotherapy:
There are multiple types of immunotherapy. The different treatments include immune checkpoint inhibitors, treatment vaccines, immune system modulators, T-cell transfer therapy, and monoclonal antibodies.
A patient can receive immunotherapy in more than one way. Treatment can be given orally (through pills or capsules), topically (through cream to rub on the skin), intravesically (or directly into the bladder), or intravenously (or directly into a vein).
Specifically, with kidney, lung, and advanced-melanoma patients, outcomes are improving, and survival numbers are increasing thanks to these new types of treatment options.