Previous studies have suggested that immunotherapy was a viable option in tackling advanced cancers. However their application to gastrointestinal cancers has hitherto proven inadequate. This is bound to change, however, as researchers have successfully used the body’s immune system cancer killing T-cells to shrink tumours in mice with Colon Cancer. This new method involves training the immune system to recognise and attack the cancer and (crucially) prevent additional tumours from forming.
Immunotherapy and Colon Cancer
Ajay Maker, Associate Professor at University of Illinois College, US, and corresponding author of the report published in the journal Cancer Research is optimistic that Colon Cancer may soon meet its match in immunotherapy. According to the report the researchers increased expression of a chemical cytokine called LIGHT which in turn activated the immune system’s natural cancer-killing T-cells causing primary tumours in the liver to shrink. This enhanced chemical cytokine (LIGHT), an immune-stimulating chemical messenger, had previously proved ineffective in patients with colon cancer metastases. A cancer is said to metastasise when it has spread to tissues and organs away from its primary site.
In the study Colon Cancer tumours were established in a mouse model. The mice had an intact and unedited immune system. The cytokine LIGHT was turned on in the tumours with the usual control group left untouched. In the active models (where tumours were exposed to LIGHT) an influx of T-cells was evident and the tumours thus targeted rapidly diminished in size. This shrinking was both swift and continuous and did not stop even after the expression of the cytokine stopped. Even when the tumour had metastasised to the liver a similar result was observed.
Colon Cancer is a particularly troublesome disease to treat, especially when it has spread to the liver and other organs. Treatments in such instances have focused on relieving pain (palliative) rather than on addressing the root cause (curative). This gastrointestinal cancer is a major health concern and in 2015 was responsible for 774 000 deaths worldwide.
This is a heavy burden to bear and the physiological complications associated with it include a change in bowel habits (with constipation, diarrhea and a change in the consistency of the stool being ever present) and rectal bleeding or blood in the stool. Further, a Colon Cancer patient has to contend with persistent abdominal discomfort including cramps, gas and outright pain. A feeling of the bowel not emptying completely is also a constant feature. A general feeling of weakness, persistent fatigue and unexplained weight loss are further inconveniences borne by Colon Cancer patients.
Colon Cancer has traditionally been treated with surgery (with adjuvant chemotherapy) and, occasionally when it has extended to the rectum, a dose of radiation therapy. Additional tumours inevitably form, sometimes prompting a cyclical repeat of these treatments. Needless to say the toll taken on the body from the disease itself and from the administration of these treatments is very heavy.
The successful use of immunotherapy in treating advanced cancer and the use of other Integrative Cancer Treatments present a safe and effective way of tackling an old problem.