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Our immune system works to protect our body against infection, illness and disease. It also works to protect us from the development of cancer. The immune system includes the lymph glands, spleen and white blood cells Normally, it can spot and destroy faulty cells in the body, stopping cancer from developing. Cancer develops when:

  • The immune system fails to recognise cancer cells
  • The cancer cells produce signals that stop the immune system from attacking it
  • The cancer cells hide or escape from the immune system

An intact immune system is important to people with cancer because:

  • cancer can weaken the immune system
  • cancer treatments might weaken the immune system
  • The immune system may help to fight cancer

Cancer treatments that are likely to weaken the immune system are:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • High dose of steroids
Traditionally, we have been treating cancer by attacking it with chemotherapy, radiation, or by removing it with surgery. The “cut, burn and poison” techniques are estimated to treat half of the cases diagnosed with cancer, but what about the other half? For a very long time, physicians have been trying to kill mutating versions of our own cells, trying to kill the bad ones, sparing the good ones, and making ourselves sick in the process. But now there’s a new and effective approach to treat cancer- one that acts on the patient’s immune system, instead of cancer. Our immune system is the most effective natural defence against disease. Anything that’s not supposed to be in the body, gets destroyed by the immune system. Cells of the immune system are on constant patrol to attack and destroy any invaders that make us sick, including cells that mutate to develop into cancer.

How does the cancer-killing process take place?

The immune cells such as T cells and Dendritic cells (the key antigen-presenting cells) defend and protect the body. The Dendritic cells patrol the body looking for cancer cells and other organisms causing diseases. They act as informer cells. The T cells, on the other hand, are the soldiers of the immune system that actually do the cancer-killing process. When the Dendritic cell finds a suspicious cell, it sends a specific signal to the T cell to multiply and attack the suspicious cell. That’s how the cancer-killing process takes place.

The question is, why doesn't the immune system fight cancer already?

The answer is, it does try to kill cancer, but cancer evades the immune responses. In other words, cancer escapes or hides from the immune system shuts down the defences and avoids the fight.

What is cancer immunotherapy, the new breakthrough in science?

Cancer immunotherapy is an approach to defeat cancer, by unmasking cancer, unleashing the power of the immune system and starting the fight, again. Cancer immunotherapy is often understood as a recent discovery when in actuality it dates back to antiquity. Despite its long history, it has blossomed into fruition only in recent years with the advances of multiple forms of treatment, including cancer vaccines, adoptive cell transfer, chimeric antigen (CAR) T cell, and immune checkpoint inhibitors. The good part is that our immune system has an amazing capacity for remembering disease-causing agents so immunotherapy promises a unique opportunity to treat cancer successfully and achieve prolonged remission.
Immunotherapy is modern science that uses our immune system to fight cancer. It works by helping the immune system recognise and attack cancer cells. It is a major breakthrough in the field of science and modern medicine in treating cancer. For a very long time, we have been treating cancer by either burning it through radiation, cutting or removing it by surgery or poisoning the cancer cells with chemotherapy. This has resulted in lesser cures and numerous, unwanted side effects. So now, there’s a new and different approach to treat cancer- one that acts on the patient’s immune system, instead of cancer. Immunotherapy leads the way forward to finding better cures as well as reducing the adverse effects. Immunotherapy is a more personalised and tailor-made approach to cancer, as opposed to treating cancer by a “onesize-fits-all” approach. It also happens to be a more targeted treatment, bringing minimal to no collateral damage to the body. Immunotherapy is an umbrella term that encompasses different modalities to boost the immune system to fight cancer. Some of these are also called Biological therapy or Targeted therapy. The different types of immunotherapies are such as: Monoclonal antibodies (MABs) recognise and attack certain proteins on the surface of cancer cells Vaccines help the immune system to recognise and attack cancer. Cytokines are a group of proteins, naturally found in the body. They help to boost the immune system. CAR T-cell therapy (also called adoptive cell transfer) to change the genes in a person’s white blood cells Checkpoint inhibitors are a type of immunotherapy that block different checkpoint proteins.

Did you know-Immunotherapy is a treatment that can be made in a lab?

Yes, we can make cells/ substances in the lab, just like immune cells/components, and use them to HELP our immune system fight cancer cells.

  • This is done by making substances in a lab that are just like immune system components and using them to help restore or improve how your immune system works to find and attack cancer cells
  • The other way is to modify or train cells to become cancer-fighting cells. These cells when given back to the body jumpstart the process of killing cancer
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