Immunotherapy is becoming a more familiar treatment term for cancer patients. If you still do not know what immunotherapy is, take a look at the below illustration.
To simplify the term, immunotherapy is a treatment where certain parts of a patient’s immune system are used to fight against diseases such as cancer. This is achieved by either stimulating the patient’s immune cells to attack cancer cells or giving the patient’s body man made immune system proteins (as described in the above illustration).
However, the number of cancer patients who can benefit from immunotherapy is still very small due to limited success of identifying patients who are responsive to the treatment. Findings on the intricacies, complexity, and how the immune community works are still scarce.
In recent research studies, scientists have been looking at how they can distinguish good cells from bad cells within the tumor. The job is to look for immune cells that occupy that surrounding tissue of the tumor that can help T cells and natural killer (NK) cells to detect and/or kill cancer cells. To put it simple,
“If you want to stimulate T cells to attack cancer, do you need to recruit any specific allies in the tumor first? We didn’t know who were the good and bad partners within the immune system, so we began systematically taking apart tumors and asking of every cell type that was in it, ‘Can you activate T cells?'” – said Matthew “Max” Krummel, PhD, a professor of pathology, member of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
They give these types of immune cells a name: “stimulatory dendritic cells” (SDCs).” But the real question is “Why some tumors have more SDCs than others?”
There has not been a direct answer to this question, but scientists have discovered exciting findings where they found a correlation between SDCs and NK cells.
“If you could successfully find a way to increase NK cells in patients’ tumors, that could be a way to boost SDC levels and produce better responses to current immunotherapies.” – said Kevin Barry, PhD.
In addition to that, with the new findings, researchers will be able to identify patients who are naturally most likely respond to immunotherapy, by detecting the amount of NK cells and SDCs in blood samples instead of biopsies or surgically removed tumor samples.
Along with immunotherapy treatment, supplements that can help stimulate the immune cells are also considered. Fucoidan, one of the more well-known supplements that have been extensively researched recently with more than 1,400 research studies on PubMed, has been proven beneficial for the immune system, gut & digestive health, and anti-inflammation. You should consult your doctor about taking supplements while you are on any cancer treatment.