3 Most Effective Experimental Methods of Cancer Immunotherapy
Over the past few decades, clinical practice has centered around three main methods for cancer treatment: surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. All these methods are aimed at removing the tumor, reducing its size, or destroying cancer cells. Almost 90% of cancer patients reach the stage of minimal residual disease (MRD) after the first round of treatment.
However, there are varieties of cancerous tumors for which there is no effective conventional treatment. This is especially true when treating recurrent cancers. If the tumor becomes resistant to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, additional courses of treatment are usually no longer beneficial.
In such situations, the use of personalized approaches in immunotherapy gives patients a chance not just to improve their quality of life, but even to be cured. Immunotherapy currently includes both FDA-approved and commercially available drugs and experimental methods that can effectively fight resistant or recurrent cancers.
Immunotherapy may be used in the following cases:
- to prevent recurrence after reaching the “minimal residual disease” stage;
- to shrink solid tumors in patients with known resistant mutations;
- to combat cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy or radiation therapy;
- to treat patients with severe clinical conditions that do not allow chemotherapy.
All immunotherapy methods work on a similar principle, which is based on stimulating the immune system and restoring its ability to detect and effectively fight cancer cells.
Oncolytic viruses are special artificial viral strains that are harmless to humans but can fight cancer in two ways. First, they induce direct anti-cancer cytotoxicity by activating a mechanism known as “apoptosis” that triggers natural cell death. Second, they induce an immune-mediated response by utilizing the patient’s immune response against cancer cells expressing viral antigens. After disintegration, the cancer cell releases thousands of virions (viral particles) into the bloodstream or nearby lymphatic channels. From there, the virions can access nearby cancer cells, attach to them, and repeat the process.
Therapeutic cancer vaccines are designed to help the immune system quickly recognize cancer cells, allowing it to launch a strong immune response against them – just as it would against an infection. The therapeutic effect is achieved by injecting a personalized vaccine made using the patient’s own cancer cells. These cells are mixed in the laboratory with an immune system-activating biological component, such as an oncolytic virus, which allows the cancer cells in the body to then be recognized as foreign. The preparation of cancer vaccines requires cryopreserved tumor tissue samples from the patient, which can be obtained through surgery or biopsy.
Coley’s toxins are named after William Coley, one of the first physicians to observe the anti-cancer effects of the systemic immune response. It is probably the first immunotherapy method to be theorized.
Coley’s toxins are a mixture of several types of bacteria that are easily identified by the immune system but are not life-threatening. They are usually mixed with cancer cell lysates from a patient’s cryopreserved tumor to make anti-cancer vaccines. In this way, the immune system will see the tumor as part of the toxin and immediately begin to attack it. In some cases, it may be possible to inject the Coley’s toxins directly into the tumor if its location allows it.
At Biotherapy International, we develop customized protocols for patients based on conventional therapies, experimental immunotherapies, and drugs. By finding the right sequence and combination of approaches, we can achieve the best synergistic effect of treatment.