Immune system therapy for cancer, which is in an experimental stage, was reported as successful for some cases of cervical cancer. Immune system therapy involves the use of white blood cells (that is immune system cells) from the person’s own body to get rid of the cancerous tumor.
The study was carried out by doctors at the National Cancer Institute and was reported at the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference, which is a meeting of scientists who specialize in cancer studies. This year’s conference was held in Chicago. Dr. Christian Hinrichs was the lead investigator of the study.
In this study, which is being called a pilot study, the tumor was removed from the body of women with cervical cancer along with the white blood cells that were attacking the tumor. The white blood cells that were found to be attacking the tumor were picked off the tumor and then put in a dish to multiply. After enough cells had multiplied, billions of the cells were put back into the body from which they came to hunt down and kill the tumor. Drugs that assisted with immune system function were also given.
Nine women participated in this study. One woman has been cancer free for nearly two years and another woman in the study has been cancer free for 15 months. Both of these women would have likely died from the cervical cancer if they did not have this new type of treatment. Both women had gone through many rounds of traditional therapies that did not work. The tumor in a third woman was shown to be shrinking for 3 months and the other six women did not respond to this new form of treatment.
Immune system therapy for cancer involves using the body’s natural defense system, which is exactly what the immune system is, that is a defense system against invading microbes like bacteria and viruses and also sick or cancerous cells. In the reported study, T-cells were used to amplify the body’s own natural defenses. T-cells are one of many types of immune system cells.
Immune system therapy, also called immunotherapy, is much less likely to cause harm to the body since it involves putting cells back into the body from which they came. There is less likelihood of rejection of these cells. Also, immunotherapy is beneficial because it does not have the toxic effects of traditional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Additional studies have used immune system therapy for other types of cancer but have not reported success at the rate of this study on cervical cancer. The other types of cancer that are being subjected to immunotherapy are leukemia, melanoma (a type of skin cancer), bladder cancer, and lung cancer among others.
Reports are that other cancer specialists were very excited about the results from this study that used immunotherapy to get rid of cervical cancer tumors. A report of success with immune system therapy for cancer is being heralded as a wonderful breakthrough that may save many people from having to endure chemotherapy or radiation therapy in the future.
By Margaret Lutze