Chances of a cure in cancer has improved spectacularly for some cancers. That is very good news, especially given that 1 in 3 people will develop cancer at some point in their life. Can we make cancer a treatable, affordable, chronic disease instead of a potential death sentence?

For decades, cancer has been treated in three ways, often in combination: through surgery, administering chemotherapy and radiation. Recently, a fourth leg has been added that is immunotherapy. In this process, own immune cells are removed from the body and transformed by powerful mini-weapons that can kill previously unbeatable cancer cells.

Effect of immunotherapy
Immunotherapy ensures that your own immune system can destroy cancer cells better. “We do not treat the cancer with this, but the immune system is strong enough to fight alone,” explains John Haanen, internist-oncologist in Amsterdam. “We encourage the immune system to do something against the cancer itself. So that's really different from other cancer treatments. ”

This new form of therapy is in the spotlight and developments are rapid. Immunotherapy is actually a collective term for various treatments that should enable our immune system to fight cancer cells much better - just like immune cells do with bacteria.

Activate immune system
With immunotherapy, the immune system is thus processed and strengthened. The treatment is therefore not aimed at the tumor. This is just as in the case of an operation, the administration of medicines or chemotherapy - or radiation, but at the activation of the own immune system.
Treatment is already underway for various cancers such as melanoma (skin cancer), lung cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer.

Positive effects in treatment process
The immunotherapy trial is currently underway in patients with colon cancer. “The new thing is that the immunotherapy is given very early in the process, even before the operation. This is called a neoadjuvant treatment with a difficult term. Most of the doctors give the patients immunotherapy in the weeks before the operation and got success.” During the operation they found that immunotherapy for certain types of colon cancer has positive effects on further treatment."

Standard treatment and clinical trials
The research is being done into new forms of immunotherapy and existing forms are being further improved. A number of immunotherapies have become standard treatments. That means they are officially registered as treatment for certain types of cancer. Other forms of treatment and applications including cancer drugs are still under development within the so-called clinical trial.

Why is immunotherapy an important step forward?
Originally, immunotherapy was only given when the cancer could no longer be cured. But in some of the patients the cancer cells were unexpectedly completely destroyed and the cancer often disappeared for a long time. Immunotherapy is therefore now seen as a full-fledged treatment with which a patient can really heal.

Sometimes immunotherapy is also given as an additional treatment, for example after surgery or radiation to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Or to destroy any very small, invisible metastases outside the surgery or radiation area. The latter is still experimental.

Author's Bio: 

Misty Jhones