Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment method which relies on the stimulation on the white cells of body’s own immune system to fight cancer and eliminate cancer cells.
Immunotherapy is usually used in the treatment for the cancer patients’ to slow down the growth of cancer cells and stop the cancer cells spreading to other organs and tissues in the body, it also helps those who recovered from cancer avoid the diseases recurrence.
What is cancer ?
Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body via the blood or lymphatic system. Caners can be catogorized into different types depending on the orgins of organ where the cancer cells started to grow and spread. Nowadays, there is still no method to kill the cancer cells completely and effectively, which makes cancer a disease resulting a high mortality rate worldwide inlcuding Thailand.
Cancer is a complex disease which still can’t be completely and effectively cured yet, and it is becoming a global challenge due the increasing number of cancer patients every year. Currently, the treatments for cancers are catogorized as the followings:
- Surgery: this treatment is to take the surgery to remove the cancerous mass in the organ or tissue. For example, the colon surgery in the treatment of colon cancer;
- Radiation therapy: radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to locate and kill the cancer cells. For example, irradiating the chest to treat the breast cancer ;
- Chemotherapy: chemotherapy is a cancer treatment where medicine or drugs are used to inhibit the cancer cells dividing. However, there are also side effects caused by the chemotherapy, such as fatigue to the patients.
- Targeted therapy: targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs or other substances to precisely identify and attack certain types of cancer cells. it helps to inhabit the growth or spread of cancer cells. As researches show that the targeted therapy will act and destroy the cancer cells without destroying the normal cells. The durgs are specifically designed to attack the cancer cells and stop the cancer cells from growing or dividing. The drugs of targeted therapy are effective with few side effects, but since the drugs are still new, they are usually with high cost as well.
Cancer Immunotherapy – a new approach to cancer treatment: with the development of medical technology, the researches are being progressed in finding the ways in the cancer prevention and treatment with the minimum side effects to make the cancer patients have better life quality. This treatment is called Immunotherapy.
Why the cancer is difficult to be cured?
The methods applied in cancer treatments inlcude the surgery to remove the tumor from the patients’ body; radiation therapy and chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells; drug therapy (targeted therapy) and so on.
These treatments are effective in the early stages of cancer. However, the cure rate rapidly decreases as the cancer enter the late stages and at these stages, there are more side effects coming together with the treatments.
For the late stage cancer patients, the mortality rate is higher.
- Non – Targeted Immunotherapy # NKCells
- Targeted Immunotherapy # CARTCells
What is immune system and its importance?
Before we talk about “immunotherapy”, let’s get to know the “immune system” of our body first.
The immune system is a network of biological processes that protects an organism from infection and disease. It is an important system of our body to prevent us from getting diseases. The immune system consists of white blood cells, which originate from the bone marrow then travel via the bloodstream to detect and fight the foreign substances. The immune system can be divided into 2 types:
- Innate Immunity: INNATE IMMUNITY is the defense system created by our own body. It protects us from being infected by all antigens, such as virues, bacteria, fungi and so on. Innate immunity involves barriers (skin and lining) that keep harmful materials from entering our body. These barriers form the first line of defense in the immune response. When the foreign substances escape the first barrier, our body also has a second barrier for defense, it involves the whilte blood cells in our body, they find and ingest the pathogens and foreign substances without waiting for the signal of our body, for example NK cells (Natural Killer Cells).
- Adaptive Immunity: ADAPTIVE IMMUNITY is an immunity that occurs after exposure to an antigen either from a pathogen or a vaccination. This part of the immune system is activated when the innate immune response is insufficient to control an infection. for example, Lymphocytes.
According to the mechanisms of immune cells, the cancer immunotherapy can be divided into 4 types:
1. Monoclonal Antibodies
The monoclonal antibodies produced are synthetic proteins that imitate the body’s own antibodies in the immune system. For cancer treatment, these antibodies are designed to target and attack specific parts of cancer cells.
2. Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
The immune checkpoint inhibitors help to inhibit the destruction of foreign cells. Some cancers go unnoticed by hiding from the body’s natural defenses. Immune checkpoint inhibitors target the body’s control and signaling system which differentiates between normal and foreign cells. Thus, these types of drugs have been developed to improve the immune system’s ability to specifically target and destroy cancer cells.
3. Cancer Vaccines
Cancer vaccines is one of the cancer immunotherapy methods. This method stimulates the immune system into destroying cancer cells or even preventing cancer cells from taking hold in the first place.
4. Non-specific Immunotherapies
These are types of immunotherapies that do not specifically target cancer cells but rather stimulate the whole of the body’s immune system to be better prepared in responding efficiently to cancerous cells. For example, natural killer cells (NK Cells) injection to improve the immune system to detect and kill the cancer cells from dividing and spreading to other organs of the body.
Cancer Cellular Immunotherapy
The white blood cells are seperated from patient’s blood sample, then they will be cultured in the laboratory until they reach the amount, then those white blood cells will be injected intravenously via the bloodstream which will make the white blood cells inside the body better able to fight cancer or by training them to better recognize and fight certain cancer cells. There are 3 treatments in the cell immunotherapy:
1. Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells Therapy)
Natural killer cells treatment is a therapy that aims to destroy tumors and cancerous cells by introducing patient-specific natural killers cells. Without others cells to stimulate, the NK cells can detect the receptors on cancer cells and release substances such as granzyme B and perforin to kill the cancer cells. The NK Cells treatment is available at Novavida Intergrative Medical Center, with culturing the NK Cells reaching the amount in its own laboratory, then the NK Cells will be injected back into the patient’s body via bloodstream, this procedure increases the power of the body’s natural immune response to provide an immediate impact on cancer cells as well as prevent other diseases.
2. Dendritic Cell Vaccines
Dendritic cell vaccines therapy is a targeted treatment that involves extracting and manipulating components (monocyte leukocytes) of a patient’s immune system (the dendritic cells) to boost its chances of eliminating unnoticed cancer cells. The dendritic cell vaccines therapy is avaiable at Novavida Intergrative Medical Center.
3. Car-T Cells Therapy
Car-T cells therapy is a targeted treatment that gets immune cells called T cells to fight cancer by changing them in the lab, the changed cells make a type of protein known as CAR before they are grown and given back to the patient. CAR stands for chimeric antigen receptor. CARs are designed to allow the T cells to attach to specific proteins on the surface of the cancer cells, improving their ability to attack the cancer cells accurately.
How does the immune system to fight cancer?
Immunotherapy is the cancer treatment based on the body’s natural defense system, when a foreign substance enter our body, the immune system will be stimulated to destroy and remove the cancer cells.
NK Cells ( Natural Killer Cells ) – Non-targeted Immunotherapy
NK Cells are the innate immune system.
Natural killer (NK) cells are innate lymphoid cells originating from a common lymphoid progenitor in the bone marrow. It is an important type of white blood cell that quickly response to the non-specific foreign substances, which means when NK cells detect the foreign substances entering our body, it will take immediate action to kill it without going throught the memorization whether such substances are encountered before for not. Therefore, NK cells can kill the phathogenic cells, foreign substances and can detect the infected cells such as viruses or cancer cells. If a person gets sick very often, we can conclude that the NK Cells amount of this person is low and the performance is not active, thus these make his immune system unable to fight against the foreigh substances entering the body.