Immunotherapy and the battle against cancer

WHAT IT IS

  • Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that strengthens the body’s immune system to combat cancer cells through several types of methods.
  • The procedure works with the patient’s white blood cells by boosting their defense while targeting cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy can be administered through vaccines, a pill or ointment depending on the type of cancer.

WHY IT MATTERS

Through scientists’ rapid advancements in immunotherapy, cancer patients are provided with a new possibility of beating the disease while also opening the door for more research in cancer therapy.

  • THE BELIEVERS – “It is the cure”

    • Anti-chemo:   Immunotherapy is safer alternative that is less abrasive on the body with less side effects, unlike chemotherapy and radiation.
    • Encouraging results:   A study by the The Institute of Cancer Research in London discovered that immunotherapy drug Nivolumab increased longevity of life for head and neck cancer patients.
    • Natural defense:   Once the immune system learns how to fight a disease, it can more easily attack it again if it comes back.
  • THE CAUTIOUS – “It is an option”

    • Risky business:   In 2016, a failed clinical trial of an immunotherapy drug cost pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb $20 billion dollars.
    • Breaking the bank:   As of 2016 immunotherapy treatments can cost over $100,000 yearly.
    • Read the label:   While symptoms are milder than other cancer treatments, some immunotherapy drugs can lead to chronic arthritis.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • In June of 2017, cancer survivor David Dunnington was treated with immunotherapy after being diagnosed with melanoma.
  • Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy found hopeful patient responses to a newly developed immunotherapy drug.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT