Can your own immune system kill cancer?

(CNN)There was another big win in the advancement of immunotherapy treatments for cancer this week.

The Food and Drug Administration approved an immunotherapy drug called Keytruda, which stimulates the body’s immune system, for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer.
    In other words, the drug could be the very first treatment a patient receives for the disease, instead of chemotherapy. Keytruda is the only immunotherapy drug approved for first-line treatment for these patients.
    So it seems, the future of cancer care may be in our own immune systems, but how exactly does it work, and what are its pros and cons?

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    “There’s this whole problem of, you give people an immunotherapy, it looks like it’s working, and then it stops working. We get recurrences or progression after some period, and the question is, why did that happen? How can you change it?” Greenberg said.
    “This is where the science has come to play an important part: Is it because the immune response was working and somehow the tumor turned it off? And if that’s the case, then we have to look at ways in which we can reactivate the immune system,” he said. “Or is it not that, is it just that the immune system did what it’s supposed to do, but now a variant grew out, now a tumor grew out that’s no longer recognized by the immune response you are enforcing? If that’s the case, then we need ways to build subsequent immune responses to tackle that.”

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    Therefore, researchers have to better understand the behavior of not only the immune system but also cancerous tumors — and it’s no simple task.
    “If there’s a perception that it’s easy, that’s a mistake. I think our lab has spent decades trying to figure out how to manipulate the immune response,” Greenberg said.
    “Some patients are anticipating things to change overnight and be immediately available as a therapy. It takes quite a while,” he said, “but I’m quite certain immunotherapy is going to be enormously useful. It’s just, right now, we are limited in what can be done.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/26/health/immunotherapy-cancer-treatments/index.html

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