Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Immunotherapy: Newfangled Cancer Therapy?

Medical science had been trumpeting for ages that the complete understanding of our bodies’ immune system will be the “Magic Bullet” when it comes to curing all known diseases. Can it be used to cure all forms of cancer, too?

By: Ringo Bones

Ever since the advent of advanced microscopy, medical researchers had been fascinated by the phenomena of Killer T-Cells attacking cancer cells and during the latter half of the 1990s, sophisticated medical scanning equipment had even observed – in real time – cancer cells being attacked by Killer T-Cells in a living subject as soon as they are formed. Given the fascinating capabilities thus observed so far about using the human body’s own immune system to cure cancer, how come is it still not a widely-used medical procedure?

In a BBC interview back in July 2012, Paul Werman – head of the Institute of Cancer Research – says that the lack of research funding is the biggest hurdle faced by immunotherapy researchers around the world from progressing beyond the experimental treatment phase. One common proven application of immunotherapy method is by growing the patient’s own Killer T-Cells in the lab. This method had been showing good results in cancer patients who are not responding well to current conventional chemotherapy regimens.

As commonly observed via advanced microscopy methods, Killer T-Cells usually surround near cancer cell clusters as soon as they form, but the Killer T-Cells only attack the cancer cells in fits and stops. Killer T-Cells only attack cancer cell clusters continuously only if enough of them surrounds a cancer cell cluster. But if improved on further, immunotherapy could prove very useful in treating inoperable tumors – i.e. tumors located in hard-to-reach parts of the human body and for use in patients who might not survive conventional aggressive chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment. And immunotherapy might not only be useful in cancer therapy, it can also be used to treat fast-mutating viral diseases like AIDS, avian influenza – and even the common cold.

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