In both news reports and now in TV ads, the concept of immunotherapy has been a hot topic for several years. But as amazing as these products are portrayed, I’m often asked how these wonder drugs work and whether they have any lurking dangers.
What is Immunotherapy?
Any discussion about immunotherapy must start with a basic understanding of the immune system, our bodies’ natural defense against infection and disease. We can then think of immunotherapy as a treatment that jump-starts the immune system and puts it to work.
Contrary to the “big three” conventional cancer therapies, which can disrupt and restrict our immune systems, immunotherapy seeks to activate immune cells throughout the body to destroy cancerous tumors. Cancer cells are tricky and can hide from the immune system in a variety of ways, escaping destruction. Immunotherapy, however, attempts to understand these elusive techniques and help the immune cells outsmart the cancer cells.
Immunotherapy also has a “memory” function, allowing it to remain effective in our bodies for a long time after treatment. This can help us stay cancer-free for a longer time and increase overall survival. And because it leaves many healthy cells unaffected, the side effects from immunotherapy are often less severe and more easily treatable than those from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
For all the good, however, I always tell our Hope4Cancer patients there are still some risks we must discuss on an individualized basis.
Immunotherapy Treatment Strategies
Immunotherapy isn’t just one treatment; rather, it’s a group of treatment strategies, which includes the following:
- Monoclonal antibodies – Man-made antibodies, engineered to target specific parts of cancer cells called antigens, are introduced into the body. They then mark cancer cells for destruction by immune cells, block the growth signals and receptors on cancer cells, and/or deliver other treatments directly to targeted cancer cells.
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors – Cancer cells can sometimes figure out how to “turn off” immune cells; when introduced into the body, these inhibitors prevent that from happening and regulate the overall immune response to cancer.
- Cancer vaccinations – Created from either modified viruses or actual tumor cells (either from the patient’s own tumor or from a general bank of tumor tissue), these vaccinations are engineered to direct immune cells to the cancer cells in the body. Prophylactic vaccines prevent viruses that cause cancer, and therapeutic vaccines treat existing cancers.
- Adoptive T-cell transfer (T-cell therapy) – T cells are collected from the patient and either multiplied to a mass quantity or engineered with new cancer-finding receptors before being re-administered to the patient.
I believe these new treatment options are certainly superior to chemotherapy and radiation, but they’re not without their side effects. In fact, many of the newly approved immunotherapy drugs are linked to side effects such as flu-like symptoms, infusion reactions, rashes and severe diarrhea. Also, because these therapies affect the immune system, some have caused serious autoimmune reactions—the body literally starts attacking its own organs. While these reactions are rare, they’re still a very real possibility.
Other Natural Boosters
Additionally, our immune system enhancement program includes the use of biological vaccines that stimulate and promote an antigen/antibody response and selectively attack and destroy cancer cells. Therapies include:
- AARSOTA Bio-immunotherapy – We extract from urine the proteins produced by the cancer cells and use them to develop a vaccine that provides the immune system with helpful information.
- AloeMed Therapy – Our proprietary Aloe Vera activates and intensifies the immune response and demonstrates impressive anti-cancer effects.
- Sono-Photo Dynamic Therapy and Hyperthermia – Both of these treatments heal cancer in their own right, but they also attract immune cells to the area of the tumor, multiplying their intrinsic anti-tumor action.
In short, at Hope4Cancer we help our patients restore their immune systems so their bodies can heal their cancer. We know if the immune system isn’t an active participant in ridding the body of cancer stem cells and non-stem cells, we have little chance of helping our cancer patients heal.