Immunotherapy is an available cancer treatment that boosts the body’s own immune system to naturally kill cancer cells. Recent studies on mice have shown a new immunotherapy technology, involving reprogrammed cells called pluripotent stem cells (IPS), may be able to prevent and attack mesothelioma tumors.

How Immunotherapy Works

Apart from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, immunotherapy is another available attractive treatment option for mesothelioma. Immunotherapy works to boost or restore the body’s immune system to fight off cancer cells. The treatment can involve substances made by the body or in a laboratory.

Immunotherapy can work by slowing, stopping or preventing the growth of cancerous cells or by inhibiting cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

There Are Different Types of Immunotherapy

There are various types of immunotherapy, including:

  • Monoclonal Antibodies: Used as a targeted therapy to flag specific proteins in cancer cells, monoclonal antibodies tell the immune system to destroy the cell.
  • Non-Specific Immunotherapies: Non-specific immunotherapies include interferons, which help the immune system by slowing the growth of cancer cells and interleukins, which help the immune system to produce cells programmed to destroy cancer cells.
  • Oncolytic Virus Therapy: Oncolytic virus therapy involves injecting modified viruses into a patient to kill cancer cells.
  • T-Cell Therapy: By removing T-cells from the body that the immune system uses to fight infection, T-cell therapy modifies T-cells them in a lab. Modified T-cells are altered to recognize and destroy cancer cells.
  • Cancer Vaccines: Cancer vaccines can be injected to expose the body to cancerous antigens, allowing the immune system to detect and destroy the antigen when reintroduced into the body.

What the Research Says About Immunotherapy

A recent study conducted in March of 2018 at the Stanford University School of Medicine revealed a positive immune response in mice when exposed to pluripotent stem cells (IPS)—genetically-altered stem cells.

The mice in this study were carrying cancer cells, meaning that the study may have revealed a new immunotherapy cancer vaccine.

Researchers infected four groups of mice with different types of cancer, mesothelioma being one of them. Researchers injected altered IPS cells taken from the mice blood or skin into each of them. By injecting the non-regenerative IPS cells, the immune system recognized and destroyed similar active cancerous cells present in the body. They also stored this memory for any cancer tumors that developed in the future.

The IPS cells enabled the immune system to attack cancer cells around the body, reduce tumor size and prevent mesothelioma recurrence at the initial tumor site. With the extremely positive results and a rather simplistic reasoning, researchers suspect the next step will be testing the procedure in clinical trials.

Immunotherapy vs. Conventional Mesothelioma Treatment

Developments within the immunotherapy treatment realm could reduce reliance on conventional mesothelioma treatments. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can cause long-term damage to the body. Any side effects require additional drugs or support to manage.

With traditional treatment forms, the body is under 2 types of attack—from the cancer itself and from treatment trying to kill the disease.

Side effects of immunotherapy still exist. But because it’s a targeted treatment, side effects are usually less extreme. In comparison to conventional treatments, immunotherapy can also improve a patient’s overall health while eliminating cancer cells from the body.

The Future of Immunotherapy for Mesothelioma

A new and effective immunotherapy technique is very exciting for the mesothelioma community. The research findings could introduce a patient-specific and safe cancer vaccine. The vaccine itself would be taken from the patient’s blood and the cells would be manipulated to prevent them from replicating before being reintroduced to the body.

Immunotherapy has the potential to train the immune system to recognize and remember cancer cells. This memory within the immune system could lead to longer-lasting mesothelioma remissions or elimination of the disease in its entirety.

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Sources
  1. Cancer.Net, “ Understanding Immunotherapy“. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/immunotherapy-and-vaccines/understanding-immunotherapy. Accessed on March 26, 2018.
  2. Cancer Research Institute, “Benefits of Immunotherapy”. Retrieved from: https://cancerresearch.org/immunotherapy/why-immunotherapy. Accessed on March 26, 2018.
  3. Biomarker Insights, “Applications of iPSCs in Cancer Research” Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4521640/. Accessed on March 26, 2018.
  4. Cell Stem Cell, “Autologous iPSC-Based Vaccines Elicit Anti-tumor Responses In Vivo” Retrieved from: http://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/fulltext/S1934-5909(18)30016-X. Accessed on March 26, 2018.

Last modified: September 1, 2018