Fighting Cancer: Can One's Immune System Really Beat This Deadly Disease?

First Posted: Oct 28, 2016 05:30 AM EDT

Making one's immune system work to fight cancer has been the experts' topic of discussion for decades already. And now, there is a recent advancement of this treatment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an immunotherapy drug for treating patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer.

According to CNN, the drug called Keytruda stimulates the immune system and is the only immunotherapy drug approved for the first-line treatment of the aforementioned illness as of writing. Basically, this new advancement makes it possible to have an independent way of fighting cancer.

Cancer therapy has three known pillars: chemotherapy, radio therapy, and surgery. But according to Dr. Philip Greenberg, immunology head at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, immunotherapy is clearly going to be the fourth pillar. He also added that at times, the treatment will be used alone and there will be times when it will be used with other therapies.

The history of fighting cancer using the patient's immune system started in 1890 when 17-year-old Elizabeth Dashiell suffered from sarcoma. Despite amputating the affected part, the cancer spread to the rest of her body. Dashiell died, which left her doctor William Coley devastated. Consequently, Coley devoted his career to cancer research.

Coley noticed that infections in cancer sufferers were at times connected to disease regressing. Soon after, he speculated that producing an infection intentionally could help treat the disease. In 1893, Coley used a mixture of bacteria to create infections in cancer patients. He found that the bacteria would make the immune system attack not only the infection but likewise anything that appears foreign, including tumors. Coley is sometimes called the "father of cancer immunotherapy".

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported about Steve Cara who had lung cancer at age 53. His oncologist recommended immunotherapy, which was supported by another doctor from whom Cara sought second opinion. The New York Times likewise highlighted the fact that many people are following the same path. Using the immune system in fighting cancer was once a dream, but it has now turned into reality.

At present, there are numerous stories about tumors melting away due to the treatment. Solid data backed such stories, which led to earning huge interest and billion dollar investments.

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