Cancer patients have another weapon in their fight against the deadly disease: immunotherapy. It is changing cancer care, and making treatment more powerful with fewer side effects.
Immunotherapy uses the body’s natural defense system to fight against cancer. Unlike chemotherapy, which destroys both cancer cells and healthy cells, immunotherapy can be targeted at specific cells.
“Targeted immunotherapies work by attacking certain proteins on the surface of cells that identify cancer and spur the body’s immune system to destroy it,” says Mark A. Meadors, DO, medical oncologist, Saint Francis Medical Partner. “In general, immunotherapies stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer, more rigorously.”
Cancer cells are notorious for mutating, which makes them less responsive to treatments that previously worked. However, immunotherapy can trigger a cascade of immune cells that can recognize cancer cells with certain antigens – even as they mutate.
“This is a very exciting area in cancer treatment,” says Meadors. “We are constantly learning about new developments, which allow us to give our patients more hope than ever before. Tumors that have not been responsive to other types of treatment are decreasing in size, and often disappearing completely, after being exposed to immunotherapy.”
“As researchers find new ways to fight cancer, our patients benefit,” says Meadors.
For more information, call 573-331-3000 or visit Saint Francis Medical Center’s Cancer Institute webpage.