In the fight against cancer, immunology is emerging as a leading cause of optimism, thanks to several innovative treatments developed to date.
Immunology looks at the body’s immune response. Whenever presented with an unwanted foreign invader, the body deploys an army of ‘T cells’ to combat the problem. The aim of work underway by immunologists is to better equip the body’s immune response, to deal with cancer.
Thus far, a number of promising immunotherapy treatments have been trialled. In one case, T cells are taken from the patient’s body, genetically modified, and re-inserted into the patient where they are better able to identify proteins associated with the cancer, enabling it to be more effectively targeted.
In another trial, a natural bodily response to limit T cells was explored. This related to its role in kerbing the body’s ability to kill tumours naturally. By removing this inhibitor, T cells were released in sufficient quantity to combat the cancer.
So far, immunotherapy treatments are showing promise in the fight against melanoma and pancreatic cancer. There is further hope that these methods may be deployed for treating solid tumours also.
While leading researchers indicate there is a long way to go, there is growing confidence that people with certain kinds of cancer, will continue to benefit from these treatments in the future (possibly as part of a broader plan involving existing treatments such as chemotherapy and or surgery).
Read the inspiring story of Emily Whitehead, a six-year-old recipient of a new immunotherapy treatment, at https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2020-12-09/breakthrough-cancer-therapies-offer-hope-for-patients.