Immunotherapy is a new weapon to fight cancer: Hope or hype?

Immunotherapy is referred to as a “game-changer” and a “miracle in the making” by several institutions and healthcare organizations. It is a method of treatment that directs the body’s immune system to specifically target and combat diseases, such as cancer. Immunotherapy can take many different forms, including medications, vaccinations, antibody treatments, and cellular therapies. It can also be administered intravenously, orally, topically or through a catheter. According to Dr. Waseem Abbas, who specializes in the treatment of cancer, many of his own patients have responded favourably to immunotherapy, even though other treatment methods, such as targeted therapy and chemotherapy, still play a significant part in cancer research and will do so in the future. He has used immunotherapy to treat 500 patients thus far, and he has written about his findings in both international and domestic journals.

In addition, Dr. Abbas has conducted some ground-breaking studies in this area. Dr. Abbas is a pioneer of immunotherapy in India and has devoted his entire life to the study of it. In this article, this veteran medical professional bestows light on all the aspects that everyone should know about Immunotherapy.

Our immune system is a complex network of cells, proteins, and organs that guards against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections while also defending the body’s own cells. It can swiftly identify and eliminate the infection if it re-enters the body since it recognizes every infection it has ever vanquished. Why then does it not shield us from cancer? It does, but not constantly.

Immunotherapy: What exactly is it?

One sort of cancer treatment is immunotherapy. It is manufactured in a lab and shipped to India from western nations and the United States. It calls for a very difficult procedure. The biggest issue we have is the high expense of medications because there aren’t any generic immunotherapy treatments on the market right now. Additionally, it is known as immunological checkpoint inhibitors. Atezolizumab (Tecentriq), Avelumab (Bavencio), Dostarlizumab (Jemperli), Durvalumab (Imfinzi), Ipilimumab (Yervoy), Nivolumab (Opdivo), and Pembrolizumab are a few examples of immune checkpoint inhibitors (Keytruda).

Why does the immune system defend us against viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other infections but not cancer?

On October 1, 2018, James Allison of the US and Tasuku Honjo of Japan’s work on chemicals that function as breaks to our immune system and prevent the immune system from recognizing and killing cancer cells, earned them the Noble Prize in physiology and immuno-oncology. In order to treat cancer, immunotherapy was made possible because of this. Immunotherapy is unique because it strengthens and activates the body’s natural defences against cancer rather than eradicating cancerous cells directly.

How well does immunotherapy work?

Sanjeevni bhooti does not apply to immunotherapy. For a certain subset of carefully chosen patients, it is quite effective. Not everyone needs to receive it.

How can we know if immunotherapy is effective?

When compared to conventional cancer therapies, immunotherapy may take longer to show detectable evidence of tumor shrinking. On scans, tumors occasionally appear to enlarge before shrinking. However, this apparent swelling may be the result of immune cells engulfing and eliminating malignancy. Patients who experience this so-called pseudo-progression phenomena frequently state feeling better all over. Immune-related adverse effects and the effectiveness of treatment may be connected in some cancer types.

Since my academic days, immunotherapy has attracted me more than any other therapy as a researcher and expert in cancer treatment. When we first began utilizing immunotherapy, we observed that tumors shrank in 30 percent of patients, which had never happened previously. Immunotherapy initially received approval for the treatment of lung cancer patients who had failed previous therapies. Patients with lung cancer are now living longer, with improved quality of life and fewer side effects. The survival of some lung cancer patients has exceeded 4-5 years, which has never been documented before. Other intriguing research focuses on patients with MSI High tumors, a particular class of biomarker that forecasts immunotherapy response.

Despite being a very aggressive cancer and a common condition in western nations, immunotherapy can now be used to treat malignant melanoma. We began working on immune-oncology a long time ago, teamed up with many organizations, and produced a number of innovative and ground-breaking studies that received acclaim on a global scale. With these newer medications, only a small percentage of our stage IV cancer patients are currently living past the age of 5.

To better identify who will or won’t respond to immunotherapy therapies, we are looking for biomarkers. They can identify which patients will benefit most from immunotherapies using these, which may be genetic mutations or proteins from tissue or blood. This road has just begun for us. Numerous sensitive malignancies are being found, but there is still much work to be done.

Apart from lung cancer, malignant melanoma, renal cell cancer, MSI High tumors other malignancies where immunotherapy has shown response are urinary bladder cancer, esophageal cancer, head and neck cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer, uterine cancer and liver cancer.

About Dr Waseem Abbas

Dr Waseem Abbas has 20 years of experience in medicine and medical oncology. He is a highly skilled professional/cancer treatment specialist who is dedicated to research in this field. He is is a young researcher and has published many breakthrough research articles in national and international journals. He is an expert in delivering immunotherapy and targeted therapy. Breast cancer and immunotherapy are his research interests. He is a senior consultant oncology and director research at Max Hospital.

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