Enlisting the Immune System
This is a semi-geeky article from the Wall Street Journal about the efforts to enlist the body's natural immune system to fight cancer, This is very different than the ways that most of us think about strengthening the immune system; it has nothing to do with getting enough rest or eating particular foods or taking special vitamins. For a number of years, there has been research and clinical trials developed to test vaccines against cancer. These are not vaccines like the MMR shot; the intent is not to prevent cancer, but to slow its growth. So far, the scientific concensus has been that there likely is a future for vaccines, but they have not yet lived up to the hopes.
Here is the beginning of the article and then a link:
Enlisting the Body to Fight Cancer By THOMAS GRYTA
Scientists are scrambling to develop medications that fight cancer by spurring the body's immune system, a form of treatment that some cancer specialists believe may hold the key to keeping a patient permanently disease-free.
The new efforts come in the wake of recent Food and Drug Administration approvals of Dendreon Corp.'s Provenge, an immunotherapy drug used to treat prostate cancer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Yervoy, for melanoma.
Other immunotherapy drugs are being developed for a number of other cancers, including lung, brain and kidney cancers. Unlike most traditional therapies that attack a cancer directly, immunotherapy uses the body's own internal defenses to ward off the disease, with the ultimate hope of building up a long-term resistance to the cancer.
"If we are ever going to use the word 'cure', the immune system
is going to have to come into play," says Stephen Hodi, director of the melanoma center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
One of the ways that cancer survives and ultimately spreads through the body is by exploiting a function in all cells that prevents the immune system from killing them. Researchers have found that cancer cells have multiple methods of avoiding detection and suppressing the immune system's response.
"Why would cancer devote so much energy to avoid the immune system if the immune system didn't have the potential to reject the cancer?" says Robert Vonderheide from the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania.