Wednesday March 20, 2019

Immunotherapy Becomes World’s First Therapy which Cured Breast Cancer

A "highly personalized" anti-cancer therapy

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Research technician Ashwini Balakrishnan works in the immunotherapy research lab of Dr. Stanley Riddell at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, March 28, 2017.
Research technician Ashwini Balakrishnan works in the immunotherapy research lab of Dr. Stanley Riddell at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, March 28, 2017. VOA

A woman with an aggressive form of breast cancer which defied chemotherapy and spread to other organs, was cured with an experimental treatment that triggered her immune system, researchers said Monday.

The woman has been cancer-free for two years, reported the U.S.-based team, presenting their results as “a new immunotherapy approach” for the treatment of patients with a late-stage form of the disease.

Other experts not involved in the work hailed it as “exciting”.

So-called “immunotherapy” has already been shown to work in some people with cancer of the lung, cervix, blood cells (leukaemia), skin (melanoma) and bladder.

But an immune breakthrough for bowel, breast and ovary cancer has remained elusive.

In the latest study, a team extracted immune cells called lymphocytes from the patient, tweaked them in the lab, then reinjected them.

Cancer patient
Cancer patient, flickr

The woman was 49 when she signed up for the clinical trial after several attempts at a cure through conventional treatments had failed, said the study published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine.

The cancer had spread to various parts of her body, including the liver.

A person’s immune system is designed to kill invaders, including rogue, cancerous cells. But it can fail, often because it cannot recognize cancer cells containing the patient’s own DNA.

Immunotherapy trains a patient’s own immune cells to recognize and fight cancer.

For the new study, researchers took lymphocytes from a tumor in the woman’s body and scanned them for specific types which reacted to mutant, cancerous cells.

Complete regression

These were reactivated or “switched on” in the lab and injected back, along with a so-called “immune checkpoint inhibitor” — another type of immunotherapy that has shown success in other types of cancer.

Cancer survivor
Cancer survivor, flickr

This resulted in a “highly personalized” anti-cancer therapy that yielded “complete tumor regression,” the researchers wrote.

In a comment also published by Nature Medicine, expert Laszlo Radvanyi from Canada’s Ontario Institute for Cancer Research said the woman’s response to the treatment was “unprecedented” for such advanced breast cancer.

This work showed “we are now at the cusp of a major revolution in finally realizing the elusive goal of being able to target the plethora of mutations in cancer through immunotherapy,” he wrote.

In a reaction via the Science Media Centre in London, immunotherapy professor Alan Melcher of The Institute of Cancer Research said the trial was “fascinating and exciting.”

The work “provides a major ‘proof-of-principle’ step forward, in showing how the power of the immune system can be harnessed to attack even the most difficult-to-treat cancers,” he said.

Peter Johnson, an oncology professor at the Cancer Research UK Centre, said the study confirmed the immune system can recognize some cancers, and “if this can be stimulated in the right way, even cancers that have spread to different parts of the body may be treatable.”

The technique is “highly specialized and complex”, he cautioned, and may not be suitable for many patients. (VOA)

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Beware! Sipping Hot Tea Raises Risk of Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cancer in India and eighth most globally. It affects more men than women.

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Scalding water irritates the lining of the mouth and throat which can fuel tumours, scientists believe. Pixabay

Love to drink your tea piping hot? Beware, it could raise the risk of esophageal cancer, finds a study.

The study showed that risk of esophageal cancer more than doubled among those who regularly drank tea at 75 degrees Celsius

However, waiting for at least four minutes before drinking a cup of freshly boiled tea can reduce the risk of the cancer arising from the oesophagus — the food pipe that runs between the throat and the stomach.

“Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages. However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking,” said lead author Farhad Islami of the American Cancer Society.

tea
The study showed that risk of esophageal cancer more than doubled among those who regularly drank tea at 75 degrees Celsius. Pixabay

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, involved 50,045 individuals aged 40 to 75 years.

Drinking 700 ml per day of tea or more at a higher temperature (60 degrees Celsius or higher) was associated with a 90 per cent higher risk of esophageal cancer, the researchers said.

The results could also be extended to coffee, hot chocolate or other hot beverages.

Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cancer in India and eighth most globally. It affects more men than women.

coffee

The results could also be extended to coffee, hot chocolate or other hot beverages. pixabay

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In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned of the cancer risk associated with drinks above 65 degrees Celsius.

Scalding water irritates the lining of the mouth and throat which can fuel tumours, scientists believe. (IANS)