Multiple Myeloma is a cancer that forms in plasma cells. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell whose role is to fight infections by making antibodies which in turn identify and attack germs. In Multiple Myeloma cancer cells accumulate in the bone marrow crowding out healthy blood cells. It is one of the fastest growing cancers with over 150, 000 new cases reported worldwide every year. In the United States alone about 70,000 people are currently living with this disease. It is a deadly form of cancer with a depressing survival rate: only about half of the patients in America live beyond 5 years after diagnosis. These statistics may not vary widely in the other developed nations.
Traditional Multiple Myeloma Treatments
Traditionally Multiple Myeloma has been managed with Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy as well as other drugs. These conventional treatments unfortunately also target cells that are free of cancer exposing the body to high degrees of toxicity.
There is however renewed optimism following a new cell and gene therapy for Multiple Myeloma that has returned 100% positive results in terms of response among the 35 participants involved. 33 of these patients even displayed varying degrees of remission within 2 months of commencing the therapy. (A second study involving nearly two dozen patients produced equally impressive results with the participants who received doses above a certain level showing a positive response).
Such outstanding results in a clinical trial are rare for any cancer therapy and have certainly never been recorded for Multiple Myeloma. This experimental treatment has been named CAR-T therapy. A patient’s blood is filtered removing T cells, which are essentially the immune system’s killer cells. These T cells are then re-engineered in a lab to contain a specific gene that targets cancer cells. The T cells are then reintroduced into the patient’s system intravenously.
The beauty of CAR-T is that it is one of those rare therapies that doctors call a ‘living drug’, meaning that a one-time treatment suffices. The T cells that have been armed with the cancer-seeking gene acquire this characteristic permanently and there is no need for repeat procedures to rearm them again.
CAR-T: A Revolutionary Cancer Treatment
Dr. Michael Sabel of the University of Michigan has rightly termed this treatment as ‘revolutionary’ and an ‘epitome of personalised medicine’. However the idea of cutting-edge science and personalised medicine is not new. Advances in the field of Oncology, especially those that are labelled as ‘alternative’, put great emphasis on a personalised approach to all cancer therapies. Integrative Cancer Treatments target the disease itself while incorporating complementary holistic therapies that maintain the body’s capability to actively ward off disease.
These alternative therapies focus on killing cancer cells, help boost the immune system, rebuild health and support bodily well being. The point of divergence with traditional methods of treating cancer is that these therapies only target the cancerous cells. Patients have responded well to alternative methods of treating cancer and are glad to be free of the aggressive side-effects of traditional treatments. Patients with Colorectal Cancer, Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, Prostate Cancer and many others freely testify to the efficacy of alternative cancer treatments.