Beating Cancer At Its Own Game
How immunotherapy is reinventing how we fight cancer and improving the chances of many cancer patients.
“If we could devise a drug that would reactivate the immune system in the proper way, this drug could become a common denominator in cancer therapy,” Topalian stated. Drugs can be used to target this particular checkpoint so that tumors cannot trick the immune system into allowing them to continue to grow. By blocking the T-cells from recognizing the tumor’s emitted molecule, the tumor will not pass the checkpoint, and the immune system’s natural T-cells will attack and repress the tumor’s growth. In this way, the immune system can be “reactivated” to fight against the tumor like it would against any other foreign invader, like an infection or virus.
Trials utilizing these drugs are already underway, and the results appear promising. In one case study, a patient with lung cancer saw the regression of multiple tumors after using drugs targeting this pathway. Prior to the trial, this patient had been given a life expectancy of only a few months—but with the immunotherapeutic drugs, the patient continued to see improvement for years.