Wednesday, October 16, 2013

More on Immunotherapy

Monday's New York Times Health section featured an article on Immunotherapy. There's been a ton of stuff written in popular outlets lately about immunotherapy. This would indicate to me that lots of people are very excited about its possibilities.

And of course, they have good reason to be. The idea that we can break through a cancer cell's defenses by manipulating the body's own immune system is pretty exciting.

Of course, the Times also asks some important questions: "Why do only some patients respond to the new immunotherapies? Can these responses be predicted? Once beaten back by the immune system, how long do cancers remain at bay?"

I'm not a cancer researcher, but I think this is just the first step in a long process. Cancer cells are like dandelions -- they find ways to get around every defense that gets put in front of them.

An aside -- did you know dandelions are programmed to force themselves to live on when they are killed? If you hit them with weed killer, they don't just shrivel up and die -- they automatically create that puff ball that kids blow on, scattering their seeds everywhere. You need to pick them and seal them in plastic, THEN spray the weed killer. They find ways to get around your attempts to kill them.

(And, yes, I am an award-winning gardener.)

Anyway, cancer cells remind me of dandelions. Hard to kill, even when you think you know how. My guess is that whatever immunotherapy gets through the shield, as the article puts it, the cells will put up another defense, and we'll need to find a way to get a round that one, too.

Our best weapon in this is our increasing understanding of the genetic makeup of all cells, not just cancer cells. Maybe we can keep ahead of the cancer as we learn more.

A nice article, one filled with hope, which is always nice.


Anonymous said...

Hi: Thanks so much for your blog! I read it with great interest and your positive attitude is wonderful. I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma grade 3 stage II in May of this year. I have been on wait and watch since that time and have not needed treatment as my blood work, LDH, physical exams remain normal. I have also been in touch with "Anjou" from and she has been very helpful to me. I have taken an avid interest in this cancer and read everything about it. I think an informed patient will be the best partner with the oncologist since this cancer is so individualized and one treatment does not fit everybody although R-CHOP remains the gold standard.
Best wishes to you and keep up the good work! Gaby

Lymphomaniac said...

I'm with you -- the more you know, the better your conversations will be. And I'm glad you're in touch with Anjou. She's fantastic. Good luck with watching and waiting; I hope it lasts a good long time.