We are standing on the edge of a new frontier in cancer treatment. This is what you need to know.
From Dr. David Eifrig, editor, Retirement Millionaire:
In 2002, doctors diagnosed Doug Olson with chronic lymphocytic leukemia… a cancer that begins in the patient’s bone marrow.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a slow-to-develop but hard-to-cure form of blood cancer.
Olsen began his fight. But after eight years and four failed attempts to beat his cancer through traditional treatments, his condition was worsening. That’s when he joined a clinical trial testing a new way…
In the summer of 2010, Olson became the third person to receive genetically modified T cells. As part of the trial… Dr. Carl June of the Penn Abramson Cancer Center would gather T cells from the patient. The researchers would then reprogram them so that when reintroduced into the patient’s body, the T cells would hunt down and kill the cancer cells.
At first, the treatment made Olson miserable… The reintroduction triggered something called a “cytokine storm” – an overload of T cell response, which caused him to develop a raging fever and flu-like symptoms that put him in the hospital.
But a week later, Olson emerged without a trace of cancer in his body.
“Pounds of tumor went away in a week,” June said in a video statement released by Penn Medicine. Years later, Olson is still in remission.
Even better, there’s promise that these reprogrammed T cells will protect Olson in the future, continuing to survive and guard against any relapse. June says this team not only can’t find any cancer cells in Olson’s body, but they can see some of the reprogrammed T cells still living and active in his body.
This is an incredible achievement for a chronic condition…
But still, there’s an immense amount we need to learn about how to train our bodies’ armies against cancer cells.
For example… as we described in Doug Olson’s story, the promise behind the Living Cure of immunotherapy is that the immune system will learn the mutated proteins on a cancer cell, recognize them as foreign, and remember to fight them in the future.
While stories like Olson’s are extremely promising, not all cancers respond the same way to immunotherapy. Dr. Steven Rosenberg, chief of the Surgery Branch at the National Cancer Institute, expressed the main concern with immunotherapy treatments…
The immune system is so exquisitely sensitive and specific that even tiny amounts of a molecule on the cancer that’s present also on normal tissues can result in the destruction of the cancer, but the normal tissues as well. So it’s this search for targets expressed by the cancer and not the normal tissue that represents a major obstacle to progress.
Every cancer has different mutations. These mutations are what cause them to grow without stopping, replicate much more rapidly than normal cells, and spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma, for example, has more than the usual amount of genetic mutations. This results in more mutated proteins on the cell’s surface. More mutated proteins means the immune system has an easier time recognizing these cells as “foreign.”
It’s this simple fact that makes melanoma a prime target for immunotherapy. Since the immune system already recognizes the melanoma cells as foreign, it has an easier time being programmed to kill them.
The same is true with lung cancer caused by smoking – more mutations in this type of cancer lead to easier recognition of the cancer cells as foreign invaders that need to be destroyed.
That makes cancers like leukemia, melanoma, and lung cancer all beneficiaries of immunotherapy. On the other hand, epithelial cancers, like those of the breast, prostate, ovary, and esophagus, have fewer mutations and are easily passed over by the immune system.
Fewer mutations also make immunotherapy much more difficult since the body views these cancer cells as “self” and will not destroy them as easily.
These types of cancers account for 90% of cancer deaths in the U.S. So finding those “targets” specific to each cancer type is crucial for the progression of immunotherapy research.
And that’s exactly where researchers like Rosenberg are focusing their new trials. New studies are being conducted every day on different types of cancers, and the search to pinpoint those targets continues. For example, in his interview, he said his lab is now beginning one of the first studies on how to target immunotherapy on breast cancer.
The final problem ties into these mutations as well. Cancer can mutate. And every person’s cancer is just a bit different because of their individual genetic makeup. That’s why the future of immunotherapy lies in using genetic research to further personalize – and therefore better target – cancer treatments.
Rosenberg is optimistic about the future. “Now there’s a lot of opportunity on the horizon as we marry modern genomic science with modern immunotherapy to develop treatments that will be highly specific to the cancer,” he says. The next wave of cancer medicine is here and will only get better as we further tailor our treatments to individual cancer mutations.
Science magazine named cancer immunotherapy the breakthrough of the year for 2013… on par with past breakthroughs such as sequencing the entire human genome and cloning a living mammal…
We are standing on the edge of the new frontier of cancer treatment.
Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig
Crux note: The new frontier of cancer treatment isn’t surgery, radiation treatment, or chemotherapy. It’s a powerful evolutionary weapon that is already coded into the human body. When activated, it’s capable of wiping out cancer like a commercial sprinkler system puts out a fire.
Doc Eifrig recently compiled a booklet of everything you need to know about cancer, including how the Living Cure works… where to find the best medical treatment… and even 10 must-ask questions for your doctor. Access his free booklet – and much more research on this burgeoning new cancer treatment – by clicking here.