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While conventional treatment for cancer works by killing malignant cells in the body, immunotherapy makes the body capable enough to fight its own battle.

Though immunotherapy has a fairly small role in treatment currently, oncologists believe this is the future weapon to deal with cancer. Boosting the immune system can help people fight cancer, but this boost needs to be large enough to overcome the already reigning cancer cells. While chemotherapy, and radiation are already being used to kill these rogue cells and do succeed to some extent, these treatments have plenty of side effects.

The immune system can be stimulated in several ways. The US FDA has approved several of these and many others show promising results. One such method is Dendritic cell therapy, which involves the extraction of white blood cells from the patient’s blood and exposing them to cancerous cells taken from the tumour. This exposure transforms white blood cells into better cancer- fighting cells which are then infused back into patient’s blood. Similar to this treatment is autologous immune enhancement therapy which involves taking natural killer cells which are part of our body’s immune system. They are multiplied in laboratory settings and reinfused into the patient’s body to kill cancer cells.

However, both these therapies are administered for the treatment of solid tumours only. “ Since blood cells are used, those with blood cancer patients can’t be treated with this. The good thing about immunotherapy is there are no side effects and chances of relapse are less since the body throws out the cancer rather than suppresses it like medicines,” says Dr Samuel J K Abraham of Nichi- In Centre for Regenerative Medicine ( NCRM), Chennai.

A study done by NCRM showed that immunotherapy improved the impact of conventional treatment “ Though it’s better to give this therapy along with conventional treatment to increase chances of recovery, it can be given solo for cases in advanced stages where surgery or medicines are not working. There is an increase in survival rate for these patients,” says Dr Abraham.

Dr Kushagra Katariya, thoracic oncologist and CEO of Artemis Health Institute, also believes a combination of various treatment strategies can be the best way to deal with cancer. “ India still lags behind the world on this new age treatment facility. Our hospital is going to collaborate with a New Yorkbased cancer institute to start immunotherapy facility for cancer patients,” he says.

manu. moudgil@ mailtoday. in


-Courtesy: Mailtoday - 29sep09
*"Nichi" stands for Japan and "In" stands for India. This institute started on an Indo-Japan collaboration now has spreaded further with global alliances
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