The future of Immuno-therapy in the fight towards cancer!

Recently exposed in the media, Sean Parker is known for being the co-founder of Napster, or his association with Facebook has donated $250 million for the research of immunotherapy for cancer treatments on Wednesday. This massive donation kind of makes you question is there something we do not know.


The understanding of cancer has been elevated over the recent years within science. For example, focusing on the 10 hallmarks of cancer, exposing the 10 characteristic that by which a cancerous cell will inherit or develop certain traits as the tumour progresses.  One of these emerging hallmarks is ‘Evading Immune Destruction’, which I shall try to explain. Normally, immune cells will seek out cells acting abnormal, and when found will be destroyed by white blood cells. However, the cancer cell evolves a characteristic (as mentioned above) too, well I suppose hide from these white blood cells, allowing them to develop and mature undetected.

So, if the immune system can be supported, or enhanced in a way to help them find these undetected cancer cells, then the tumour cells will be destroyed, eliminating the cancer cells altogether in various places throughout the body.

Which then begs the question; what is immunotherapy, and how will it help the fight against cancer?

Immunotherapy is a biological therapy using mostly substances from living organisms to treat cancer.

There are many types of immunotherapy, five to be precise, these being:

Monoclonal antibodies

These are usually represented as drugs that bind to specific cancer types. When bound they activate the immune system making cancer visible to the immune system (white blood cells), making it much easier for the cancer cells to be found and then destroyed.

Adoptive cell transfer

This type of immunotherapy focuses on the T-cells, white blood cells that normally fight cancer. Testing the T-cells against cancer will lead to the discovery to which strain of T-cells is more effective. Once determined these T-cells will be isolated and grown in batches, kind of leading to a super army of T-cells. Once grown these cells will then be injected back into the body via the vein. In response, the immune system will be more responsive and effective when fighting abnormal cancer cells. Moreover, in some cases, these cells may be modified genetically.

Cytokines

Naturally, certain types of immune cells (interferons and interleukins) in our body produce these proteins called cytokines to help fight infections and eliminate cancer cells. Effective with certain types of cancers, subtypes produced in the laboratory called, interferon-alpha and interleukin 2, are used to help target cancer, supporting and strengthening the immune system.

Treatment Vaccines

Treatment vaccines are vaccine designed to train the immune system to be more efficient in recognising a specific type of cancer. Along with eliminating cancer, the technique may be used to prevent cancer from returning. Therefore, exposing the body to dead strains will help boost the immune system regarding target a certain type of cancer, making the immune system much faster to react.

Bacillus Calmette-Guérin

Bacillus Calmette-Guérin is a weakened strain of bacteria that usually leads to tuberculosis, when inserted directly into the bladder with a catheter it stimulates an immune response, therefore, stimulating the fight, eliminating any cancer cell present in the bladder.

The hardest obstacle when finding a successful treatment for cancer is to initiate treatment that only targets the cancer cells and not the healthy cells. Also, within a tumour, the cells may present different types of characteristics, usually leading to a mixture of chemotherapies with the addition of radio therapy, which damages the healthy cells whilst also suppresses the immune system.

The donation made by Sean Parker I believe shows the advantages and the potential of this treatment and the future development of immunotherapy, leading to a better, more personalised treatment.

Let us know your thoughts on this therapy and if you think it is the future treatment to cancer.


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