The Herman Trend Alert
December 30, 2015
Cancer Immunotherapy Saving Lives
After many years of hoping and cancer drugs that did not work, the medical establishment now has a new class of weapons against cancer: "immune checkpoint inhibitors".
Using the body's own immune system
The human body has a kind of molecules called "immune checkpoints". Typically, these molecules prevent T-cells from killing normal cells; however, cancer cells can appropriate the T-cells for their own purposes. The new treatments are about preventing the cancer from "hijacking our own immune checkpoints, so that our immune systems can do their important work. We're already seeing this new class of drugs revolutionize cancer treatment.
The revolution has already begun
Former United States President Jimmy Carter, now 90, is being treated with these drugs for the melanoma that had spread to his brain. Plus, there are advertisements on television in the US for Opdivo (nivolumab), particularly effective against advanced-stage, non-small cell lung cancer that has spread and that is not responding to conventional chemotherapy.
Other related pharmaceuticals
A related drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is also effective against the same cancer. Another approved drug, Yervoy (ipilimumab) is approved for treating melanoma that has spread throughout the body (metastasized) or that cannot be removed by surgery.
Fewer side effects
Though patients are able to avoid the serious side effects of toxic chemotherapy, there are still some intended consequences of taking the drugs. The most common side effects of taking checkpoint inhibitors include fatigue, cough, nausea, skin rash and itching, however some more serious intestinal effects have been associated with the drugs as well.
Expensive, but effective
This leading edge cancer therapy is expensive, yet it holds great promise for many kinds of cancer. In spite of the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration has only approved the drug for treatment of only for treating certain types of melanoma and lung cancer, it also appears to be effective against kidney cancer, triple negative breast cancer, stomach cancer, Hodgkin's disease, bladder cancer, and head and neck cancer.
Expect more breakthrough drugs that provide cancer immunotherapy
The prospect of cancer treatment without the terrible side effects most people experience with chemotherapy is an exciting one. This leading edge class of pharmaceuticals will soon grow and gain approvals for the treatment of other cancers; for many, it can't come soon enough.
Special thanks to Bottom Line Health and Health Insider for their articles on these promising treatments.
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