As a new discovery brings us closer to victory over cancer

“Before the discoveries of the laureates of 2018, progress in cancer therapy has been modest. The landmark research of these two scientists marked a turning point in mankind’s struggle with cancer. We learned that the disease is controllable”, — with these words, the Academy announced the winners of the Nobel prize in 2018 in physiology or medicine — James Ellison (USA) and Tasuku Honjo (Japan).

We decided simply and clearly as possible apart, what is the meaning of the revolutionary discoveries of scientists in the fight against the deadliest disease of our time.

For starters: why nobody can cure cancer?

The fact that it is so cunning disease that cancer cells have learned to disguise themselves and hide from the immune system, causing in most cases that just fail to recognize them.

To help the immune system come up with different ways to treat cancer: surgical method (excision of tumor), radiation therapy and chemotherapy (destruction of cells), which, admittedly, is not always effective. Especially in the later stages.

As I propose to treat now

But! Nobel prize winners this year, 20 years ago realized that salvation is found in the other direction: don’t need to destroy the cancer cells, and to make them visible to the immune system, which in this case will successfully deal with them myself.

So there was immunotherapy.

As simply as possible: what is the essence of the method

Our immune system self-seeking in the body of the harmful cells and destroys them. However, as we have said, cancer cells somehow evade this natural protection, resulting in the tumor was growing rapidly.

It turns out, that’s it. In immune cells have special receptors through which they recognize the danger. If they feel a threat, “alarm system” and the immune system begins to actively compete with the other cells. However, there is a risk that in the heat such Stripping immunity can begin to destroy healthy cells in the body. They do not fall under the immune punch, there is a special mechanism, which in time stops the immune cells, and this is special receptors, or as they are often called check-points (“control points”). Immune cells use them for self-regulation, and cancer cells have learned to use them for their own invisibility: they produce a large number of special protein activators that affect the check-points and suppress the immune system. Metaphorically speaking, the cancer cell is connected with immune and puts it on the fuse.

What did the Nobel prize winners: in addition to the opening of this whole scheme, they invented the check-point inhibitors (literally: “the overwhelming tool for control points”), which block the check-points and allow the immune system to go from sleep mode to recognize the tumor and fight it.

The use of these inhibitors has led to an immeasurable increase in the life expectancy of many people even with advanced cancer. In fact, based on this immune therapy of cancer, which is now widely studied and already used in the fight against certain types of cancer.

Why is impossible to declare this method final victory over cancer

There is one big disadvantage: lifting the immunity off the brake in some cases can cause the immune system begins to attack its own cells. And this problem is rather big. As a result of this treatment some severe side effects ranging from fatigue and nausea, ending in pneumonia or in individual cases even death.

But despite this problem, it is impossible not to call this discovery a real revolution in cancer treatment. Blocking drugs have already been effectively used in the fight against lung cancer, kidney, lymphoma, and melanoma showing complete remission in just a few months.

What happens in the future

James Allison and Honjo Tasuku started this way back in 90-ies. In 2010, immunotherapy has shown clinical efficacy in the fight against melanoma, and in 2013 the scientific journal Science named the new approach the main scientific achievement of the year.

And finally, in 2018, the pioneers of immunotherapy was awarded the Nobel prize. This again emphasizes the shape of the future. Research gives hope that in the near future will be found the molecules that allow to treat other cancers at any stage. And this, of course, a miracle.


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