Cancer Immunotherapy: Its Time Has Arrived
    Category: Issues & Ideas By : Aastha Saboo Read : 797 Date : Friday, February 09, 2018 - 11:08:15

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    From many years, cancer has been treated by radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and later targeted therapy, from the 1990s. A few years ago, scientists developed a new treatment called cancer immunotherapy that had a significant impact on survival rates in cancer patients across many cancers. Cancer immunotherapy has been hailed as the new revolution in cancer treatment and for good reason.

    Just before an international symposium last November on immunotherapy, organized by leading pharmaceutical firm Kalbe Farma and the Stem Cell and Cancer Institute in Jakarta, Forbes Indonesia interviewed several top international medical professionals about the cancer immunotherapy’s potential. They discussed recent medical breakthroughs in immunotherapy, and how it could be used in developing countries.

    What is immunotherapy? Immunotherapy is a treatment which enables the body’s own immune system to attack cancer. These types of treatments have shown to have especially dramatic benefits against such cancers as melanoma (skin cancer), leukemia and lymphoma. Previously melanoma patients in an advanced stage had very limited treatment options. With immunotherapy, some patients who were considered terminally ill can now potentially return to normal health. “This is a big revolution, that the body’s immune system is being used to fight cancer. It is only recently that we have found a number of treatments where the immune system is able to attack the cancer,” says Dr. Stephen Russell, a professor of medicine at the famed Mayo Clinic in the U.S.

    Various types of immunotherapies that can be used alone or in combination, like antibodies, vaccines, viruses and cell therapies, especially T cell therapy. Many immunotherapy treatments are well tolerated with modest and manageable side effects, if any at all. “One example of immunotherapy making a real difference is the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors,” says Dr. Stephen. Cancers protect themselves by hiding from and evading the immune system. One way that cancer survives is by sending a signal not to be attacked to immune cells, mainly the T cell (the leading “killer cell” that protects the body from disease and infection). The immune checkpoint inhibitor antibody breaks this signal, so the T cell “wakes up” and is unleashed to attack the cancer. As of 2018, immune checkpoint inhibitors have received U.S. FDA approval in many cancers, including melanoma, lung cancer, oral cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer and colorectal cancer.

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