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How successful is cancer immunotherapy?

January 21, 2024
Shimon Slavin
success rate of immunotherapy

It is crucial for cancer patients to know whether their treatment has been successful . However, doctors hesitate to use the term ‘cure’ and often refer to a successful treatment as leading to ‘remission.’ In modern medical terminology, ‘complete remission’ means the tumor has disappeared, and ‘cure’ indicates that cancer has been in complete remission for at least 5 years. But even if cancer is considered cured, it does not guarantee the elimination of all cancer cells in the patient’s body. A cure also does not prevent the possibility of cancer recurrence. Fortunately, immunotherapy can not only effectively eliminate the tumor to the last malignant cell, but also prevent recurrence. 

What does survival mean in cancer?

Disease characteristics include the type, grade, and stage of cancer. Some cancers, like pancreatic cancer, have a poor prognosis from the start, regardless of the treatment method. Other types, such as prostate cancer, respond well to treatment. Generally, the more abnormal the cancer cells appear compared to healthy cells (known as ‘grade’), and the more the cancer has spread in the body (‘stage’), the worse the chance of survival.

The patient’s health condition also influences cancer survival. Various comorbidities not only worsen the overall functional state but may also contraindicate specific treatment methods, both of which lead to higher mortality.

The treatment response determines the effectiveness of the medical approaches used to combat cancer. Traditional methods like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery may eliminate the tumor to the extent that cancer cells are not detectable through visualization methods. However, even if cancer is undetectable, some cancer cells may still remain in the body. This condition is called ‘minimal residual disease,’ and advanced technologies are needed for its diagnosis. Immunotherapy is most effective during the minimal residual disease stage. During this stage, immunotherapy targets all remaining cancer cells, including stem cells that could cause a recurrence.

What is the success rate of immunotherapy?

In addition to immunotherapy drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies, there are also other innovative methods of cancer immunotherapy. Some of these methods can be applied as experimental treatments on a compassionate basis for patients who have little or almost zero chances with traditional treatments. Since we typically deal with particularly aggressive tumors resistant to conventional methods, the results of immunotherapy are promising. For example, on average, 30% of stage IV cancer patients receiving immunotherapy at Biotherapy International experience a reduction in tumor size, cessation of growth, or even complete remission.

In conclusion, thanks to immunotherapy, some of our patients with stage IV cancer have even managed to eliminate minimal residual disease. This means that patients have not only been ‘cured’ of cancer, but all tumor cells — including stem cells — have been destroyed, and the primary tumor has not returned.

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