From the Parish Nurse

Article from the Parish Nurse

Dear Church Family,

     I have not talked about the newer treatments for cancer recently.  I was reading an interesting article on immunotherapy and felt that this would be a good thing for us to be aware of.  It has been used for a number of years now and is showing a good success rate in treating certain types of cancer.

     The American Cancer Society describes immunotherapy as treatment that utilizes and boosts a person’s immune system to fight cancer by “Stimulating your own immune system to work harder or smarter to attack cancer cells”  and by “Giving you immune system components, such as man-made immune system proteins.”

     Types of cancer that have been found to respond well to immunotherapy are:  bladder, brain, breast, cervical, colorectal, gastric, kidney, leukemia, lung, melanoma, ovarian, and prostate.  Dr. Anthony Komaroff, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School describes 5 ways in which immunotherapy works, “It can: recruit more immune system cells to attack a tumor, make cancer cells more vulnerable to an attack by the immune system, change the way cancer cells grow, coax cancer cells into behaving more like normal cells, and neutralize ways that cancer cells are able to hide from the immune system.”

     In the article Immunotherapy for Cancer from the National Cancer Institute, they discuss several forms of immunotherapy: “Monoclonal Antibodies, which are drugs that are designed to bind to specific targets in the body.  They can cause an immune response that destroys cancer cells.  Adoptive Cell Transfer, which is a treatment that attempts to boost the natural ability of your T cells to fight cancer.  Cytokines, which are proteins that are made by your body’s cells.  They play important roles in the body’s normal immune responses and also in the immune system’s ability to respond to cancer.  Treatment Vaccine, which work against cancer by boosting your immune system’s response to cancer cells.  BCG, which stands for Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, is an immunotherapy that is used to treat bladder cancer.”  

     As with all cancer therapies, there is the risk of side effects ranging from itchiness to severe allergic reactions.  Most of the articles I read indicate the severe reactions are rare.

     There seems to be quite a bit of research continuing in this field with some trial studies looking good for new ways to treat a number of different cancers.  Call me with questions.   

God Bless!  Beth