RESEARCH SUPPORTING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF GUIDED IMAGERY ON IMMUNE SYSTEM STIMULATION (see below, May 4, 2012)
WHAT IS IMMUNOTHERAPY?
Whip Cancer is a form of non-pharmaceutical immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy is also sometimes called biologic therapy or biotherapy. It is treatment that uses certain parts of the immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. This can be done in a couple of ways:
• Stimulating your own immune system to work harder or smarter to attack cancer cells
• Giving you immune system components, such as man-made immune system proteins
For a long time doctors suspected that the immune system had an effect on certain cancers. Even before the immune system was well understood, William Coley, MD, a New York surgeon, first noted that getting an infection after surgery seemed to help some cancer patients. In the late 1800s, he began treating cancer patients by infecting them with certain kinds of bacteria, which came to be known as Coley toxins. Although he had some success, his technique was overshadowed when other forms of cancer treatment, such as radiation therapy, came into use.
Since then, doctors have learned a great deal about the immune system. This has led to research into how it can be used to treat cancer, using many different approaches. In the last few decades immunotherapy has become an important part of treating several types of cancer.
Immunotherapy includes a wide variety of treatments that work in different ways. Some seem to work by boosting the body’s immune system in a very general way. Others help train the immune system to attack cancer cells specifically.
Immunotherapy seems to work better for some types of cancer than for others. It is used by itself to treat some cancers, but for many cancers it seems to work best when used along with other types of treatment.
As researchers have learned more about the body’s immune system in recent years, they have begun to figure out how it might be used to treat cancer more effectively. Newer treatments now being tested seem to work better and will have a greater impact on the outlook for people with cancer in the future.
WHAT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM DOES
Your immune system is a collection of organs, special cells, and substances that help protect you from infections and some other diseases. Immune system cells and the substances they make travel through your body to protect it from germs that cause infections. They also help protect you from cancer in some ways.
It may help to think of your body as a castle. Think of viruses, bacteria, and parasites as hostile, foreign armies that are not normally found in your body. They try to invade your body to use its resources to serve their own purposes, and they can hurt you in the process. In fact, doctors often use the word foreign to describe invading germs or other substances not normally found in the body. The immune system is your body's defense force. It helps keep invading germs out, or helps kill them if they do get into your body.
The immune system basically works by keeping track of all of the substances normally found in the body. Any new substance in the body that the immune system does not recognize raises an alarm, causing the immune system to attack it. Substances that cause an immune system response are called antigens. The immune response can lead to destruction of anything containing the antigen, such as germs or cancer cells.
Germs such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites have substances on their outer surfaces, such as certain proteins, that are not normally found in the human body. The immune system sees these foreign substances as antigens. Cancer cells are also different from normal cells in the body. They often have unusual substances on their outer surfaces that can act as antigens.
But the immune system is much better at recognizing and attacking germs than cancer cells. Germs are very different from normal human cells and are often easily seen as foreign, but cancer cells and normal cells have fewer clear differences. Because of this the immune system may not always recognize cancer cells as foreign. Cancer cells are less like soldiers of an invading army and more like traitors within the ranks of the human cell population.
Clearly the immune system’s normal ability to fight cancer is limited, because many people with healthy immune systems still develop cancer. The immune system may not see the cancer cells as foreign because the cancer cells (and their antigens) are not different enough from those of normal cells. Sometimes the immune system recognizes the cancer cells, but the response may not be strong enough to destroy the cancer. Cancer cells themselves may also give off substances that keep the immune system in check. To overcome this, researchers have designed ways to help the immune system recognize cancer cells and strengthen its response so that it will destroy them.
Science 305 (5681): 200-205
Copyright © 2004 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Cancer Immunotherapy: A Treatment for the Masses
Joseph N. Blattman, and Philip D. Greenberg*
Abstract: Cancer immunotherapy attempts to harness the exquisite power and specificity of the immune system for the treatment of malignancy. Although cancer cells are less immunogenic than pathogens, the immune system is clearly capable of recognizing and eliminating tumor cells. However, tumors frequently interfere with the development and function of immune responses. Thus, the challenge for immunotherapy is to use advances in cellular and molecular immunology to develop strategies that effectively and safely augment antitumor responses.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109, USA, and Departments of Immunology and Medicine, University of Washington, 1959 Northeast Pacific Street, Seattle, WA 98195–6527, USA. * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://stke.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;305/5681/200