Battle Against Cancer
shutterstock 661893523

Science and Technology

Battle Against Cancer

Is immunotherapy the best treatment?

WHAT IT IS

  • Immunotherapy is one of the most discussed forms of cancer treatment. [U.S.News]

  • There are "targeted" and "general" immunotherapy options.

  • General immunotherapy boosts or trains the white blood cells (T cells) of the immune system to fight cancer. [National Cancer Institute]

  • Targeted immunotherapy blocks the growth and spread of cancer.

80252f00 8bce 43ad 9ce5 5d571290e22e 1
  • Your immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to destroy unnatural bacteria, viruses, or abnormal or unhealthy cells. 
  • Cancer will trick your immune system to not attack it because it develops from normal cells. Your body is unable to naturally recognize and attack the start of a deadly mutation.
  • Immunotherapy can be given through vaccines, pills, or ointment. [National Cancer Institute]

IMMUNOTHERAPY OPTIONS

General vs. targeted options...

Vaccine

A form of targeted immunotherapy, administered through a needle injected into the vein.

Pills

A form of general immunotherapy, administered through capsules that you swallow.

Ointment

A form of general immunotherapy, administered through a cream that you rub onto your skin.

WHY IT MATTERS

 

Through scientists’ rapid advancements in immunotherapy, cancer patients are provided with a new possibility of beating the disease while also opening the door for more research in cancer therapy.

 

THE CURE ALL

Natural defense

Immunotherapy trains the immune system to fight specific cancer cells. [Dartmouth]

 

Once the immune system learns how to fight the disease, it can more easily attack it again if it comes back.

 

 

Safer   

Immunotherapy can be a safer alternative that is less abrasive on the body with fewer side effects, unlike chemotherapy and radiation. [OncoSec Medical]

 

 

Encouraging results

A study by the Institute of Cancer Research in London discovered that the immunotherapy drug "Nivolumab" increased the longevity of life for head and neck cancer patients. [AZO Medical Network]

JUST ONE OPTION

Breaking the bank

As of 2016, immunotherapy treatments can cost a patient over $100,000 a year. [The Huffington Post]

 

 

Risky and costly

In 2016, a failed clinical trial of an immunotherapy drug cost pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb $20 billion dollars. [Bloomberg]

 

 

Read the label

While symptoms can be milder than other cancer treatments, some immunotherapy drugs can lead to chronic arthritis. [NPR]

 

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Immunotherapy works better with certain types of cancers than with others. [American Cancer Society]

  • Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy found hopeful patient responses to a newly developed immunotherapy drug. [GEN]

  • In June 2017, patient David Dunnington was treated only with immunotherapy after being diagnosed with melanoma. He was able to make a full recovery. [Q13 Seattle]

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Learn more about mobilizing the immune system.

  • Read about specific types of cancer and how immunotherapy has proven results.

  • How might CRISPR help or hinder doctors and cancer research? 

  • Will this focus on immunotherapy distract from other fields of cancer research? [CNN]

Key Vocabulary