An article, by Denise Roland and John Ficenec, in National Post, first published in The Telegraph, looks at the latest advances in cancer therapy; one of the most promising is a field called immuno-oncology (IO), which is a method to help the human body—and in particular our immune system’s T-cells—detect and eliminate cancer cells by giving it more weapons to defeat it; the war metaphor is very apt in describing what it often takes to have victory over cancer.
Denise Roland and John Ficenec write:
IO is set apart from other forms of cancer treatment because it harnesses the body’s natural defences to fight off tumours. The other approaches — chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery — bring in outside weapons, such as powerful drugs, high-energy radiation and scalpels.
IO works by undermining the evasion tactics used by tumours, which can “hide” from the body’s immune system by disguising themselves as normal cells. Some IO treatments work by unmasking tumours, allowing the body’s disease-fighting cells to find and attack them. Others reinforce the immune system’s weaponry in various ways, so that its killer cells can fight off the cancer more powerfully.
David Hafler has spent decades, first at Harvard University and now at Yale, working out how scientists can harness the immune system to fight off disease of all kinds, not just cancer. “The word breakthrough should be taken very seriously, but this is one of just two instances in my life when I would say: this is a breakthrough,” he says.Such is often the way with research and breakthroughs; it often takes decades of committed and dedicated work by teams of scientists for a breakthrough. So, now is the time when we’ll hear a lot more about IO, which holds a lot of promise and gives hope to those suffering from cancer. It is my view, based on reading many scientific articles on the subject, that scientists and researchers are now only years away from announcing many medical breakthroughs in humanity’s long battle against cancer. It seems that we are now entering the final mile. This is one of the beauties of science, that it not only builds on previous work and discovery, but that it is also self-correcting. As someone who has benefited from recent advances in cancer research, I can attest to the benefits of medical science and medical research that not only increases longevity, which is important, but also quality of life.
He calls some of the trial results “mind-blowing,” especially in the treatments that attack a tumour’s stealth tactics. “It’s been absolutely dramatic to watch play out. The cat-and-mouse game that goes on between tumours and the immune system — I didn’t know it was that important. No-one did.”
For more, go to [NatPost]