Progress for a cure for mesothelioma marches onward. The progress has come in different areas. Chemotherapy drugs to treat mesothelioma have not changed over the last decade, but there have been advances in immunotherapy and biological drugs.
The immune system’s job is to prevent or limit infection. It is made up of different cell types that circulate throughout the body and live in a particular tissue. These cells can be found on the skin, in the bloodstream, thymus, lymphatic system, spleen, and mucosal tissues. It is a complex system that works to keep us healthy. Now, through extensive study of the immune system, researchers have come up with cancer immunotherapy as a new way to treat cancer. It works with the power of the immune system.
Dana Farber recently posted an article about the progress of cancer immunotherapy on its website. According to Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, President and CEO of Dana Farber, and a prominent immunologist, “this is just the tip of the iceberg.” The researchers are now focused on why only some patients respond to immunotherapy. The second focus will be on why some cancers do not respond at all.
Research into the immune system and the study of immunology has been going on for the past 100 years. Scientists are now focused on activating the immune system. Molecular checkpoints conceal the cancer cells to the immune system allowing them to escape undetected. This has led to the development of drugs called checkpoint blockers. These drugs free T-cells to attack and kill cancer cells.
Another approach that has received a lot of attention is CAR T cells. The patient’s T-cells are removed and sent to the lab where they are genetically modified to produce receptors on the surface of the cells to recognize specific proteins on the cell. This has been met with limited success.
These are just a few of the possibilities that scientists are looking at regarding the immune system. There is still a way to go to find a cure for mesothelioma, but this is progress. As one scientist said, he thinks the cure will come in 10% to 20% increments. Therapies will start to work in some subsets of mesothelioma patients, and then hopefully advance to all mesothelioma patients.
The names and the concepts of cancer immunology are confusing and foreign, but when chemotherapy was introduced so, too, were those terms. As scientists continue to push forward with progress, we will all become more familiar with the concepts of cancer immunology, and look for it in the fight against mesothelioma!