Promise seen in pancreatic cancer through immunotherapy
Pancreatic cancer advances have been making recent news, largely through the revolution that is personalized medicine, specifically immunotherapy. The statistics on pancreatic cancer are grim. Almost 50,000 people will be diagnosed in the US this year, with more than 40,000 dying from the disease. There exists no effective screening method. The disease is asymptomatic early on and spreads rapidly to other organs.
What is immunotherapy?
June is immunotherapy month. Immunotherapy is one of the hottest topics in cancer care. Traditional ways of treating cancer such as chemotherapy and radiation work through their direct killing effects on tumor cells. Immunotherapy works through an entirely different mechanism by leveraging the power of the immune system to attack the tumor.
One such important therapy to come out of this is that of the PD-1 pathway. This is a cascade of cellular reactions which “releases the brake” on the immune system, allowing it to be activated against the tumor, so-called “checkpoint inhibitors”.
Other forms of immunotherapy include cancer vaccines and antibodies that can be made to target tumor cells. Also, cytokines that activate the immune system and other drugs designed to boost the immune system are forms of immunotherapy.
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