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Immunotherapy is a treatment procedure where one's own immune system is
used to boost the body's natural defenses to combat cancerous cells.
Our bodies continuously develop cancerous cells during our lifespan. A healthy
immune system is able to find and destroy these cancerous cells before they
grow any further. However when the immune system becomes weak and fails to
function its tasks, these cancerous cells begin to grow and expand.
Cancer is a fatal disease that almost effects every family, and is a disease that is
about to surpass the heart disease as the number one cause of death in USA.
The good news is that cancer can be treated in early stages by chemotherapy,
radiation, surgery, targeted therapy, and hormonal therapy. Immunotherapy is a
newer form of therapy that researches have been working hard to fight cancer by
strengthening the immune system to fight cancer cells.
There have been some progress made through immunotherapy, but certainly there are more work needs to be done. Immune system in our
body is a collection of cells and organs to protect us from dangerous pathogen, bacteria and viruses. Usually people do not think about
immune system as a weapon against cancer! The question we need to ask ourselves is that why immune system does not recognize
cancer cells as a threat!
Cancer in general act as a separate entity in the body and they hide themselves from immune system. Cancers can build fibrous wall or
capsule around themselves acting as a physical barrier to the invading immune cells that are coming to attack them. Cancer can also make
immune suppressive hormones in which they turn off the immune system. And more interestingly, cancer can also attack the population of
the immune cells, not the good ones the immune system to cut the molecular brakes that hold the immune system back.
Usually immune system remembers and conveys durability to the response. The durability of the responses are seen after immunotherapy
because the immune system is a living, dynamic organ inside our bodies that has in fact a molecular memory.
We are vaccinated as babies against many infectious diseases, and our bodies remember those responses for decades, for that reason, we
do not need to be boosted again! So there are immune cells in cancer patient bodies that remember the cancer in case if should come
back! The goal here is to have a durable regression, but not a temporary remission!