One of the major reasons why the official cure for cancer has remained so elusive is the fact that there are so many forms of cancer. One type of cancer in particular called multiple myeloma, a cancer formed by cancerous plasma cells, affect 1 in 143 people in the United States and has killed 11,240 people in 2015 alone!
However, new, promising research suggests that multiple myeloma patients could find recovery in a therapy that isn’t chemo: immunotherapy.
Could Immunotherapy Replace Chemo?
Immunotherapy involves the use of a person’s own immune system to treat an infection or disease. A new research found that 70% of multiple myeloma patients responded positively to the treatment.The study was published in the Nature Medicine Journal by the University of Maryland Medical Center.
But don’t be confused! This is no stand around and wait approach to cancer. The patients had stem cell transplants using their own stem cells, followed by an injection containing 2.4 billion genetically altered immune system T cells. These genetically altered cells make it harder for cancer cells to evade the immune system’s antibodies.
14 out of the 20 myeloma patients had a near-complete or complete response three months after the treatment.
More About Multiple Myeloma
As mentioned above, multiple myeloma is a cancer that starts in our plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell. They are found mainly in our bone marrow, but are also present (in smaller quantities,) in other tissues and organs.
Plasma cells are important because they make antibodies that help our bodies fight infections. When abnormal cells, (cells that no longer grow nor behave normally,) divide uncontrollably to create more abnormal plasma cells, they become cancerous myeloma cells.
These myeloma cells continue to divide, building up in the bone marrow and outnumbering other normal blood cells. The myeloma cells produce abnormal proteins and other abnormal substances that cause bone and organ damage.
Myeloma cells can also form tumors in and outside of the bones.
Issues With Treating Multiple Myeloma With Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a very invasive and toxic treatment. When chemo drugs attack healthy cells in an effort to kill the cancerous ones, the drugs have a negative impact on our health. Some of the more severe side effects associated with chemotherapy include:
- Memory issues
- Mouth and throat sores
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood disorders
- Nerve damage
- sexual and reproductive issues
- hair loss
The Future of Immunotherapy
Over half the patients in this study experienced a tumor reduction as a result of this new treatment. Scientists believe that this treatment could be effective with all types of cancer, not just multiple myeloma.
Researchers also believe that one day, immunotherapy could replace chemotherapy. This is promising and exciting news. It’s certainly no cure, but it’s one more ally in the fight against cancer!