Immune therapy: A New Ray of Hope For Lung Cancer Treatment?

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In recent studies conducted by John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in collaboration with other laboratories, the immune therapy has showed promising and encouraging results. The team studied more than 500 patients who were administered with drugs which can restore the immune power to fight against cancerous cells. The immune therapy deals in using the immunity of human body to resist any harmful change to the body.

In normal cases the immune system blocks and kills the cells which are not functioning properly. But in case of cancer cells, they device a new pathway to fool the immune system and keeps them from checking the growth and proliferation of cancerous cells. Researchers have been trying to find ways to target the immune system towards the cancerous cells and eliminate them. For this, they have to find suitable markers which can tell the immune system which cells to attack on.

The results of the recent studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers say that the positive results and the longevity of the results have encouraged the researchers to carry on with research in the same direction.  The approach was not to kill the cancer cells directly but to block the pathways which shield the cancerous cells from being attacked by the immune system.

Two proteins PD-1 and PDL- 1, namely programmed cell death- 1 and programmed cell death ligand -1 respectively are responsible for shielding the cancerous cells and saving them from immune system. The researchers in this latest study have tried to block the pathway of these proteins making the cancerous cells vulnerable to immune system attack.

In independent trials that took place in several US hospitals, patients were given BMS-936558 drug that blocks PD-1 and BMS-936559 that blocks PDL-1 in separate tests.

The tests those were conducted on PD-1 were conducted on 294 patients who were in their advanced stages of cancer. The patients were not showing response to other modes of cancer treatments before the starting of this trial. It was found out the drugs were able to cause significant response in some patients.

The enthusiastic team of researchers said that there are this was just the first step in the direction and they need to do extensive study to find more efficient and potential use of immune therapy to cure cancer. The main problem was the side effects of this treatment. While some patients developed minor rashes, 3 of them died of inflammation of lungs. The researchers say that they are working on controlling the side effects of the treatment.

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