Is immunotherapy the answer to beating cancer? Oncologist explains

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Barbara Friedman

94 days ago
 Is immunotherapy the answer to beating cancer? Oncologist explains Copyright : Olga Yastremska

Broadly speaking the term immunotherapy is harnessing our body's immune system to help in the fight against cancer.

Dr Greg Hart, Oncologist - Cancer Care Group 

This is either done by boosting the immune system with external drugs that serve t stimulate it, or through administring drugs that make the cancer less able to evade the body's immune system, he explains.

One of cancer's great tools is its ability to cameglouge itself against the body's normal immune mechanism.

Dr Greg Hart, Oncologist - Cancer Care Group 

Our bodies are normally very good at finding abnormal cells and dealing with them - but cancer cells are masters in dusguise and fool our immune systems.

Despite cancer cells emerging from one's own body, they are adept at hiding from the immune system, and this is the area where imunnotherapy has ade the bggest breakthrough he says, allowing us to remove their cameflouge.

These new drugs have neabled us to remove this handbrake cancer cells place on our immune system. and we can allow our immune system to do its job.

Dr Greg Hart, Oncologist - Cancer Care Group 

He says over the years these medications have imporved and sophisticated. They used to be vvery toxic to the system.

There are much fewer normal tissues caught i the crossfire.

Dr Greg Hart, Oncologist - Cancer Care Group 

Radiation, chemotherapy and surgery wordwide are still the biggest pillars used in treating cancer, he notes, and still has a very valid place.

Immunotherapy augments this and is a comletely separate tool that we have in our fight against cancer. It is a completely different way of attacking these cancer cells.

Dr Greg Hart, Oncologist - Cancer Care Group 

Immunotherapy has been shown to be very useful on its own in manageing certain types of cancer, but also in combination with the other three traditional pillars.

Not all types of cancers respond uniformly to immunotherapy and that is one of the questions we are still trying to answer.

Dr Greg Hart, Oncologist - Cancer Care Group 

Some of the more common cancers like breast and prostate cancer do not respond well unfortunately to immunotherapy, he notes.

But the cancers where we have really seen big differences with immunotherapy are primary lung cancers, melanomas, kidney cancers, bladder cancers, and a of the other slightly less common cancers.

Dr Greg Hart, Oncologist - Cancer Care Group 

The majority of immuotherapy drops are immune checkpoint inhibitors are admisitered via intravenous infusion, usually once every three to six weeks.

Most patients are in and out in less than an hour and have very few side effects.

Dr Greg Hart, Oncologist - Cancer Care Group 

The two drugs licenced in South Africa are pembrolizumab or Keytruda.

At this stage the drug is adminstered for about two years, he says.

Oncologosits do not throw the word cure around lightly, and we are quite a few years down the line with these immunotherapy drugs, and there is a proportion of patients that have a durable resonse to the therapy even once the therapy as stopped, there is no sign of the cancer coming back.

Dr Greg Hart, Oncologist - Cancer Care Group 

These drugs are very costly and at R85 000 every three weeks it is beyond the reach of most people, he says. Only the very top end of mendical aids even consider paying for the,

Listen to the insightful interview with Dr Greg Hart in the audio below as he explains the breakthrough in immunotherapy and the fight against cancer:

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Is immunotherapy the answer to beating cancer? Oncologist explains

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