Aggressive surgery has often been the preferred approach for patients in whom melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes. Results of a recent trial suggest that a conservative treatment of watchful waiting may actually be more beneficial.
Is Completion Surgery Necessary?
Once a patient is diagnosed with melanoma, the traditional procedure has been to conduct a sentinel lymph node biopsy. If cancer cells are detected, the next step is usually immediate removal of the remaining regional lymph nodes in the surrounding area.
Surgery vs. Watchful Waiting
MSLT-II involved 1,934 participants who had been diagnosed with skin melanoma of medium thickness that had spread to sentinel lymph nodes but nowhere else in the body. Half underwent immediate lymph node removal surgery while the other half were monitored for signs of cancer in the regional lymph nodes.
After three years, 86 percent of patients in each group had not succumbed to melanoma. In addition, 68 percent of the surgery group and 63 percent of the monitored group had not experienced any recurrence of cancer.
Greater Risk of Complications
While difference in recurrence rate was negligible, the surgery group was found to be far more susceptible to complications. Those patients were approximately four times more likely to experience lymphedema, which is a buildup of excess lymph fluid that causes swelling.
Immunotherapy for Cancer: State-of-the-Art Treatment
We have successfully treated patients with melanoma and other forms of cancer in both early and late stages. Contact us to learn more about Issels® and our individually developed, non-toxic immunotherapy for cancer programs.
In the past, scientists have attributed gender discrepancies in cancer rates to lifestyle differences. Recent evidence strongly indicates that the cause may actually lie in biological differences instead.
This theory was bolstered by the results of an MIT study involving male mice infected with H. pylori, a bacterium that can lead to gastric cancer. More than 50 percent of people around the globe are infected with H. pylori, and while many remain asymptomatic, gastric cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.
How Gastric Cancer Develops
H. pylori infections are controlled by the body’s immune system, but a common side effect is gastritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach. The result is conditions that lead to the development of gastric cancer.
Studies have indicated that estrogen can protect women from gastritis, lowering their gastric cancer risk. Conversely, Tamoxifen and other drugs that block estrogen have been linked to higher risk of gastric cancer in women.
Testing the Theory
The mice in the MIT study were treated with estrogen, Tamoxifen or both. None of them developed cancer despite a prior history of gastritis, suggesting that Tamoxifen in the stomach may mimic rather than block estrogen. In the untreated control group, 40 percent of the mice developed gastric cancer.
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Using estrogen to treat cancer is an example of using the body’s own resources. Immunotherapy for cancer is a non-toxic way to boost the power of your own immune system to fight cancer.
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Lung adenocarcinoma gets its name from adenomas, which are a form of benign tumors. Scientists believe that lung adenocarcinomas begin as adenomas that transition to the more aggressive type.
A team of researchers at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research set out to study the process behind the change from benign to malignant. According to lead author Tuomas Tammela, at some point the tumor cells begin acting like stem cells, allowing for rapid reproduction.
Flipping the Switch
Wnt is a signaling pathway that maintains cells in a stem cell-like state. The team focused on the activity of this pathway in a group of mice programmed to develop lung adenomas that were likely to progress to adenocarcinomas.
While they found that the Wnt pathway was not active in the adenomas, about five to 10 percent of the cells turned it on during the transition. When the mice received cancer treatment that interfered with the Wnt proteins, tumor growth was halted and the mice lived 50 percent longer.
Innovative and Effective Cancer Treatment at Issels®
Traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are designed to attack tumors directly. In contrast, immunotherapy aims to boost the power of a patient’s own immune system to battle cancer.
Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of melanoma and immunotherapeutics services at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City, refers to immunotherapy as a “fundamental change” in the approach to cancer treatment. Billions of dollars are being invested to fund hundreds of trials in which cancer patients anxiously plead to participate.
How Does Immunotherapy Work?
Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues and biochemicals that protect your body against illnesses caused by viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances. Cancer is particularly stubborn because it often evades detection by the immune system, allowing tumors to grew unchecked.
Immunotherapy comes in two basic forms:
Immune cells are removed from a patient, reprogrammed to fight cancer cells, and returned back into the patient’s bloodstream.
Checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that block the mechanisms used by cancer cells to shut down the immune system.
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Our founder, Dr. Josef Issels, was a pioneer in the development of immunotherapy, and we’re proud to continue his legacy of helping patients successfully fight cancer. Contact us to learn more about our innovative programs of individually tailored cancer treatments.
While immunotherapy for cancer has been a breakthrough for more effective treatment, the challenge is determining which patients will receive the most benefit. A joint US-UK study recently made a discovery that could help solve the problem for lung cancer patients.
Fighting Lung Cancer with T-Cells
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Southampton and La Jolla (CA) Institute for Allergy and Immunology. The team focused on lung cancer, which is the most common cause of cancer deaths in both countries.
Findings showed that lung cancer patients with larger quantities of tissue-resident memory T-cells in their tumors had a 34 percent greater chance of survival. In addition to serving as protection for the patient, these T-cells produce molecules that attack and destroy cancer cells.
This process corresponds nicely with immunotherapy for cancer, which works by boosting the body’s own natural defense mechanisms against disease. Testing lung cancer patients for levels of tissue-resident memory T-cells can provide an indication of the likelihood that they will benefit from immunotherapy.
Understanding the Role of the Immune System and Immunotherapy
Dr. Justine Alford of Cancer Research UK spoke about the importance of such studies to gain insight into the interaction between cancer cells, the immune system and immunotherapy. She adds that research could lead to more personalized treatments for patients with lung cancer and other forms that are difficult to treat.
Researchers have made a number of significant breakthroughs in cancer treatment, but a recent development has the healthcare community particularly excited. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a drug that treats tumors based on a genetic abnormality.
Keytruda: A Landmark in Immunotherapy for Cancer
Pembrolizumab, marketed under the trade name Keytruda, was tested on a trial group of 86 patients. The results were remarkable: 66 patients saw their tumors shrink and stabilize, while the tumors in 18 of them disappeared with no recurrence.
What’s different about Keytruda? It’s the first drug that attacks tumors from a shared genetic profile rather than the actual location of the tumor. A prospective patient first undergoes testing to determine whether he or she is a genetic match for the mutations targeted by Keytruda.
Current and Future Possibilities
At present, Keytruda is approved for treating only select forms of advanced bladder, lung and melanoma tumors. The drug will be effective for approximately four percent of cancer patients, which still equates to tens of thousands of people.
Scientists are encouraged by the possibility of further treatment methods tailored to a patient’s specific genetic profile. This ability would greatly enhance development of more accurate targeting and treatment.
Advanced Immunotherapy for Cancer Treatment from Issels®
Issels® uses genomic testing to determine a patient’s individual treatment needs. We then use the information to tailor a personalized immunotherapy for cancer program including methods such as vaccines and NK cells.
We have helped patients with all forms of cancer achieve long-term remission. Contact us to learn more about why the Issels® difference may be right for you.