Calling on the Power of the Immune System to Fight Cancer

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In many respects, the immune system is your body’s superhero. A complex system of cells, cell products, and cell-forming tissue, your immune system protects the body by ridding it of unwelcome intruders such as pathogens, viruses, and other foreign substances that cause our bodies harm. We all know by now that boosting one’s immune system can help ward off a cold virus.

Sniffly noses are one thing, but recently researchers have more reason to believe that the immune system may also have the capacity to fight off the Big C—cancer.

In recent years scientists have discovered that just like the stealthiest of “bad guys,” cancer is able to disguise itself from the immune system, thereby avoiding a full-force attack. Armed with this knowledge researchers developed something called “checkpoint inhibitors,” a type of therapy that essentially reveals the cancer to our body’s immune system. In other words, cancer’s shield of invisibility is destroyed and the immune system gets to work doing what it does best: attacking mutant proteins expressed by certain cancers that arise in epithelial cells.

An article in National Institute of Health,goes onto explain how such cells can line the surfaces (internal and external) of our body.

These cells give rise to many types of common cancers, such as those that develop in the digestive tract, lung, pancreas, bladder and other areas of the body.”

Using Immunotherapy to fight cancer is gaining steam as success rates grow. It has even proven successful in certain patients who have stopped responding to chemotherapy.

There are some side effects to consider, of course, including the possibility of serious organ damage. For the most part this seems rare. Most patients simply report feeling extra tired during treatment or developing a bit of a rash, a far cry from pumping your body full of radiation or chemo poison and having your hair fall out.

While immunotherapy comes at a high cost to the patient’s pocketbook at the moment, a recent article from NPR  explains that it shouldn’t be something patients have to pay for over the course of many months… or years.

That's because when patients stop taking them, immune system cells known as T-cells seem to remember how to keep the body cancer-free.”

This is exciting news in cancer research and a great reminder of just how powerful and capable our bodies are!

Image via Medical Progress Today

Sources: 

Read all articles by Juniper Briggs

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