Cancer researchers and physicians involved in clinical trials are calling a new immunotherapy treatment for cancer “a breakthrough.” Patients are calling it “a miracle.” A form of immunotherapy, the new cancer treatment is called immune-checkpoint blockade. An advanced targeted cancer therapy, the treatment uses chemically produced monoclonal antibodies to target specific molecules on cell surfaces. The antibodies clear roadblocks created by the cancer cells themselves that can hinder the immune system’s natural ability to protect itself. With roadblocks removed, immune system cells are free to attack and annihilate cancer cells. The results have been impressive and appear to be long-term.
“Research activity is just going through the roof,” Johns Hopkins University cancer immunologist Suzanne Topalian told the Washington Post, noting that the therapy is being tested on melanoma, lung and kidney cancers with smaller trials on a laundry list of other cancers. In five years, many immunologists expect checkpoint inhibitors and other immunotherapy treatments to be used as primary cancer treatments for the majority of advanced cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. That would be a considerable and welcome departure from American medicine’s current dependency on surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Immune-checkpoint blockade has startling similarities to the integrative immunotherapy that has been practiced at Issels Integrative Oncology Centers for decades. However, where the new technique uses chemically engineered antibodies, Issels’ integrative immunotherapy is completely non-toxic, using autologous vaccines prepared from the patient’s own blood to enhance the natural immune system response of cytokines, natural killer cells, LAK cells and T-cells. (Click the link for an explanation of how these immune factors interact.)
At Issels alternative cancer treatment centers we have been practicing integrative immunotherapy for more than 60 years, so it is naturally gratifying to see Western medicine walking in our footsteps.
We found some interesting parallels between the Issels approach to alternative cancer treatment and an unusual cancer experiment using fruit flies that was recently reported on CBS Sunday Morning. The experiment is a last-ditch attempt by an Atlanta businessman to beat medullary thyroid cancer, a rare, deadly and extremely aggressive form of thyroid cancer.
Mark Beeninga has been fighting cancer for 13 years. His tumor has proved resistant to standard treatments, returning after bouts of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and clinical trials. After years spent searching for new treatments, Mark has enlisted the aid of a fruit fly geneticist to develop an individualized cancer treatment designed to work on Mark and Mark alone.
Individualized cancer treatments aren’t new. Issels Integrative Oncology has a rich history of individualized immunotherapy cancer treatments that stretches over more than 60 years. It is only relatively recently that Western medicine has begun to explore beyond its traditional one-size-fits-all approach to cancer treatment. Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, told CBS that personalized cancer care specifically tailored to the individual shows the “greatest promise” for winning the war against cancer.
Mark and fruit fly geneticist Ross Cagan may be taking individualized care to a new extreme. Cagan has engineered a fruit fly that is a near genetic duplicate of Mark, replicating not only his tumor, but also his diabetes and other health issues. The purpose is to bombard the fly with different treatments to find something that will kill Mark’s specific tumor.
The approach is not unlike our commitment to creating highly personalized cancer treatment protocols designed to meet the specific needs of each individual patient. Mark is still waiting on results, but Issels’ approach has already proven successful for many patients.
In the ongoing debate on the effectiveness of mammograms as a breast cancer screening tool, a new study found no evidence that annual mammograms save lives. In what is considered the most rigorous and comprehensive study on the effectiveness of mammograms to date, Canadian researchers tracked 90,000 women between the ages of 40 and 59 over a 25-year period. Women were randomly assigned to have mammograms with physical breast exams or breast exams alone. The study found that mammograms had absolutely no impact on breast cancer mortality. According to a Fox News report, the same number of women in each group died of breast cancer, whether or not they had received annual mammograms.
Mammograms have been considered an important breast cancer screening tool for decades. The assumption has been that lives could be saved by detecting and treating breast cancer early. In reality, the study found that 1 in 5 cancers discovered through mammography and subsequently treated posed no threat to the woman’s health but did unnecessarily subject her to the pain and expense of surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. Researchers concluded that there was no advantage to finding breast cancers before they were large enough to feel during physical examination.
Cancer overtreatment has been hot button public issue over the past year. This isn’t the first cancer screening test called into question. There has also been considerable debate about the value of prostate cancer screenings for men. In many cases, researchers have found that men are undergoing unnecessary surgery or radiation treatment for cancers that would never have impacted their health during their lifetime.
Considering the likelihood of unnecessary treatment, as pointed out by the Canadian study, women diagnosed with breast cancer might want to consider non-toxic alternative cancer treatment instead of undergoing more radical and physically damaging treatment.
Nearly half a century after Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling suggested that large doses of vitamin C (ascorbate) could be effective in preventing and treating cancer, a new study indicates that vitamin C may indeed be a valuable alternative cancer treatment. In a study recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center found that intravenous administration of high doses of vitamin C increased the cancer-killing effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs in mice and significantly decreased chemotherapy’s toxic side effects in people.
The recent research would seem to vindicate Pauling’s claims about vitamin C which were largely discredited by practitioners of Western medicine in the 1970s when they were unable to document Pauling’s claims in clinical trials.
“There’s been a bias since the late 1970s that vitamin C cancer treatment is worthless and a waste of time. We’re overcoming that old bias,” study co-author Dr. Jeanne Drisko, director of integrative medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center, told the Los Angeles Times.
The difference in results between previous studies and the latest research may lay in the method of delivering vitamin C. In studies conducted in the 1970s patients took vitamin C orally in pill form. University of Kansas researchers administered the vitamin intravenously.
“When you swallow a pill or eat an orange, vitamin C is absorbed at a certain rate by the gut and excreted very quickly by the kidneys, Drisko explained. “But when you give it intravenously, you override that. Plasma levels can get very high.”
Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the U.S., killing more people than the next three most common cancers – colon, breast and prostate – combined. According to the American Lung Association, more than a quarter million new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. The difficulty of detecting lung cancer in its early stages and the invasiveness and cost of current diagnostic tests contribute to the deadliness of this devastating disease.
When lung cancer is not discovered and spreads to other organs, the five-year survival rate is just 4%, compared to 54% when lung cancer is detected and treated while still confined to the lungs. Discovery of a simple breath test that could lead to a new, non-invasive diagnostic test for lung cancer has the potential to increase lung cancer survival rates in the not so distant future. Scientists at the University of Louisville in Kentucky believe they can turn their discovery into a publicly available diagnostic test within five years, according to USA Today.
Expensive CT scans and invasive biopsies are currently considered the most effective means of diagnosing lung cancer. However, in recent tests Louisville researchers found elevated levels of four specific compounds in exhaled breath to be remarkably accurate in detecting the presence of lung cancer. The presence of elevated levels of just two of the four compounds was predictive of lung cancer in two-thirds of the patients studied. The absence of elevated compounds was also shown to accurately indicate that a mass in the lungs was benign. If brought to market, the simplicity and low cost of the breath test could lead to earlier and more successful treatment of lung cancer.
The World Cancer Report assessment that nearly half of all cancers could be prevented, offers a ray of hope in what the World Health Organization is calling a global cancer pandemic that threatens to nearly double worldwide cancer cases and cancer-related deaths over the next 20 years (see our previous post).
In the U.S., evidence that a combination of consumer education, cancer prevention techniques, early diagnosis and immunotherapy can successfully reduce cancer incidence and fatalities provides a useful template for battling cancer on both a worldwide and personal level.
One of the most important advances in the battle to defeat cancer has been the Western medical community’s perhaps belated recognition of the important role the body’s immune system plays in both cancer prevention and cancer treatment. Issels Integrative Oncology has been a leader in the development and practice of individualized immunotherapy for more than 60 years. Making lifestyle choices that promote a strong and healthy immune system can help decrease your risk of developing cancer.
To decrease your cancer risk, experts recommend the following:
• Stop smoking.
• Drink in moderation.
• Eat a healthy diet.
• Exercise regularly.
• Participate in cancer screening programs.
• Obtain vaccinations against cancer-causing agents such as HPV.
• Schedule regular medical check-ups.
Visit our website to find out more about the benefits of Issels unique program of integrated immunotherapy available at our alternative cancer treatment centers in Tijuana, Mexico and Santa Barbara, California.