Surgeries, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy which have been in the hit list for the treatment of cancer for ages, are now getting a thumb down after the onset of the treatment called immunotherapy which is definitely giving them a great kick in the treatment of cancer with mandatory relief to the patient at the same time.
Immunotherapy focuses on treating the kind of cancer maligning the person’s body with his/her own living cells. This revolutionary invention in the field of cancer treatment is often regarded as the “fifth pillar”. This drastically emerging approach in immunotherapy is also known as adoptive cell transfer or in short ACT. There are basically different sub types of it –
- TILs – These are those specific white blood cells that have left their track from the bloodstream and instead merged into the tumour. These mononuclear immune cells can be found of various kinds that include – B cells, T cells, NK cells and macrophages. Here the T-cells are the most commonly found one.
- TCRs – Also called cell receptors, TCRs are those molecules which are predicted on the surface of T lymphocytes or T-cells. The bear the responsibility of identifying the antigens fragments as peptides that hard bound to MHC or major histocompatibility complex.
- CARs – Full formed as chimeric antigen receptors, or also referred to as chimeric immunoreceptors, artificial T cell receptors, chimeric T cell receptors or CAR-T are those receptors that are engineered to graft the random specificity on the T cells also called immune effector cell.
A New Era of Cancer Treatment
Among all above the only one chosen for treatment approval is that of CAR-T cell therapy by the US food and drug administration. It is limited to only a number of clinical uses for the treatment against acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. This treatment is all set to be called as Kymriah and only to be approached once the earlier treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy etc. fails.
How Does It Work?
Unlike the earlier conventional methods of treatment for cancer in chemotherapy or surgeries, this living drug that is extracted itself from the person’s body is tailor made for that particular person only. These T cells are first extracted from the patient’s body then they are designed or tailored through genetical reprogramming to recognise the specific kind of cancer after putting them back in the patient’s body, it then goes on to act and then finally kill the cancer cells.
This just happens to be the very early stage of what is supposed to be called the real immunotherapy in the near future with researches being still going on at present to seek for modifying these white blood cells which from not extracted from the patient itself but a suitable donor.
These modified cells are capable of destroying any kind of cancer that is dwelling in the person. However, CAR-T cells have displayed effective action against solid tumours that occur in case of lungs cancer or melanoma, the results are more promising and extremely positive when it is treated on various types of blood based cancers.
The Living Drug
CAR-T cells can be aptly called equivalent to living drug that is exclusively for that one patient only and from his/her own white blood cell. While the laboratory started examining this method back in 1988 itself, it was only in 2002 that it got valid attention after a series of modifications. And it is now in August 2017 that the living drug (CAR-T cells therapy) has finally been approved for the treatment of kids suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Further, it is all set to pave a way of relief for the adults inflicted with advanced lymphoma next.
It Place in The Future of Cancer Treatment
Even after embracing so many plus points in it, it must be noted that this type of immunotherapy is undoubtedly at its extremely early stage and requires a lot of modifications and developments to present itself completely valid and ideal for the treatment of cancer patients all over the world.
Similarly, like conventional therapies of treating cancer, even this one abides itself with a number of severe side effects, namely, cytokine-release syndrome, cerebral edema or swelling in brain. While the former one is extremely fatal and frequently occurring, the latter one seems to be limited. Hence, the next big step to be accomplished by the researches and doctors indulged in modifying and incrementing this immunotherapy, will be to reduce its catastrophic side effects and presenting it as much safe as possible to its patient suffering from any kind of cancer.
This treatment using CAR-T cells therapy, it won’t be wrong to say that it rather stands on its first stage only, has definitely changed the definition of conventional immunotherapy to a large extinct but it still has a great way to cover yet in order to be fully recognised for its miraculous treatment results.