many doctors associate the future of oncology with the development of immunotherapy – a relatively new method of treating oncological pathologies. Unlike “traditional” surgical interventions, chemotherapy and ionizing radiation therapy, this method is based on the characteristics of the tumor itself, and helps to destroy it in the most natural way.
what is the basis of this method?
Already by the name, you can understand that immunotherapy involves the most faithful guardian of human health – his immune system. Normally, the immune system independently copes with cancer cells. Once upon a time, scientists made a shocking discovery: cells that can give rise to a malignant tumor are formed in the human body for life. But if the immune system works correctly, the tumor is destroyed in its infancy, and no one even knows that it tried to take root in the tissues.
under the influence of provoking (carcinogenic) factors, as well as as the accumulation of harmful substances in the body, pathological cells are formed more often. and some of them acquire defense mechanisms that allow them to escape from the supervision of the immune system. In this case, comes to the aid of immunotherapy is that it helps the immune system to “calculate” and destroy the cancer.
How does it work?
immunotherapy in oncology can be based on intervention in several different processes:
- Suppression of substances that mask the tumor. Such substances usually have a protein nature. Scientists call them ” control points.” Using special drugs that bind the control points, doctors expose the neoplasm and allow the immune system to cope with it on its own. Checkpoint inhibitors do not affect healthy tissues, so they are well tolerated by the patient and do not harm his health.
- Reproduction of immune cells that are active against cancer. To do this, some of the patient’s immune cells are extracted into a test tube and adjusted against a specific tumor. Then the active cells are cloned and returned to the patient’s bloodstream. Programmed to destroy cancer, the clones quickly find it and eliminate it. In this way, you can significantly reduce the size of the primary tumor focus or destroy it, as well as stop the development of metastases.
- Formation of specific proteins-antibodies. If there are not enough antibodies against the tumor, doctors can use medications that contain antibodies to the most common tumor proteins. such antibodies are called monoclonal. To enhance the effect, they are combined with chemotherapy drugs, radioactive substances, or use such antibodies that can simultaneously affect several types of protein molecules. currently, other groups of immunotherapeutic agents are widely used – for example, immunomodulators and anti-cancer vaccines. the former contain substances that increase the activity of the immune system as a whole (for example, interferons or growth factors). the second “train” the immune system to fight some viruses that provoke the growth of neoplasms, and with the neoplasms themselves.
detailed information about immunotherapy and the organization of treatment in our country can be found on the website of the center for complex medicine. here you can also get advice from leading oncologists about the feasibility of using the method in a particular case.