In 2018, an estimated 1.7 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. Due to increased awareness and advances in early detection and treatment options, the mortality rate is in steady decline – its lowest point in 30 years. Research in immunotherapy is at the forefront of this trend and is showing the most promise since the development of chemotherapies in the 1940’s.
Immunotherapy, sometimes called biologic or biotherapy, refers to treatment that uses the person’s immune system to help fight disease. In some cases, the immune system is augmented with man-made proteins and other components, stimulating it to work harder or smarter to attack cancer cells. While immunotherapy is the primary treatment for certain cancers, it is often used alongside more broad therapies like chemo and radiation to tackle others. Less targeted treatment also means damage to healthy cells and increased side effects which can pose other health challenges or adversely impact quality of life – a determining factor for many patients.
Immunotherapy may be the universal answer to cancer, enabling the immune system to recognize and eliminate damaging cells anywhere in the body. Immunomemory, the training of the immune system to remember cancer cells, means longer-lasting protection and possible prevention of cancer recurrence – a substantial advantage over chemo and radiation. These durable responses mean benefits are maintained long after treatment has been completed, further increasing the chances of survival.
This Friday June 15th, #wearwhite to support the doctors, researchers, and clinicians dedicated to improving lives through the advancement of immunotherapy. Their work means longer, more satisfying lives for millions of patients diagnosed with cancer, and the possibility that one day in the near future we are able to look at immunotherapy as a prevention and cure rather than simply a treatment.