There’s no denying how incredible the human immune system is. We do not give it much though, as we go about our daily lives. While you get your kids ready for school, hold that important business meeting, or sleep — your immune system is working around the clock, ensuring that you maintain positive health.
Of course, when the immune system is overpowered by external factors, it does not function as well as it could. Our modern lifestyles are full of stress, poor diet choices, and a low rate of physically active individuals. In turn, conditions such as cancer continue to affect millions worldwide.
What if there was a way to boost immune function, so that it could overcome cancerous cells? Researchers in London may have made a critical connection between immune function and cancerous cells. Could this influence the direction of future treatment options?
Scientists May Have Found a Way for the Immune System to Kill Cancers
Researchers at University College, London may have made a remarkable discovery. Sadly, two out of every five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetimes, whereas 25 percent will die due to this disease. Research has been ongoing for decades and although many cancers are successfully treated, far too many lives are still taken prematurely.
Recently, researchers discovered a unique marking within a tumor, which they referred to as its Achilles heel. This essentially means a weak spot within the cell mass, allowing the human body to target the cancer itself. It was reported that this method of treatment would be expensive, and has not yet been tried on any patients.
This work was funded by Cancer Research UK and although some are skeptical, they believe that this discovery could essentially act as the backbone of possible treatments moving forward. As new treatments are developed, this is a vital piece of information — they hope to test on human patients within the next two years.
Personalized Care, Targeting Tumor Antigens
If this discovery were to be developed into a treatment, it would be personalized, based on each individual patient’s DNA. The concept of the immune system fighting off cancer has been explored in the past, however, most cancer vaccines have failed. It’s believed that these failures are due to wrongful targets.
If you do not provide the immune system with the most effective target, cancer will continue its powerful course. While dealing with cancer treatment, problematic cells are not identical. Even within the same tumor, cells within different sites can behave differently based on mutations. Cancer cells begin with a core mutation, branching off based on new, unique mutations.
Within this recent study, researchers identified the core mutation in which changes antigens — the molecules which trigger an immune response. Why this is so exciting, is because knowing the source of these tumor antigens, can influence more localized treatment. These specific antigens will be a priority in terms of an effective target.
Personalized medicine is so fascinating and in many ways, essential. Although many cancers behave the same, no two people are identical in terms of their genetics and individual anatomy. In this case, each patient would benefit from their own unique treatment plan.
In order to develop a related treatment, two approaches are being explored. The first will focus on a cancer vaccine, specific to each patient. This would train one’s immune system to spot and destroy targeted antigens. The second is to locate the immune cells which are already fighting antigens, increasing their numbers in a lab, and placing them back into the body.
This is, of course, exciting for the included researchers, as well as the rest of the world — but this possible treatment is still in the early stages of development. At this point, this discovery makes sense and could be highly beneficial, however, it may not be so simple. Cancer is highly resilient and evolves at a rapid pace – making the immune system’s job that much harder.
Although immunotherapy is an incredible field, especially within cancer research, an effective treatment may be years away. Researchers are not aiming to spread false hope or claim that it’s a cure, however, they are proud to share this key understanding regarding the ways in which our immune system interacts with cancer.
As research continues to unravel, millions of hopeful individuals across the globe will continue to stay connected and personally invested. If you develop any odd symptoms, it’s critical to seek professional attention as soon as possible. Many cancers can be treated when detected early. Here are some of the early warning signs and symptoms, so that you can better protect your future health.
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