Q: I've heard that there are individualized cancer treatments that may make chemo obsolete. How do they work?
KATHLEEN C., Lexington, Ky.
A: The latest breakthrough in creating individualized cancer treatment involves using your body's own immune system T-cells to wipe out cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue in your body.
Cancer takes hold when fast-multiplying cancer cells KO your body's natural defenses, including your T-cells. Chemotherapy targets those fast-multiplying cells, but can damage healthy cells, too. This new kind of immunotherapy works by reawakening T-cells' anti-tumor immune memory, so they can do their job again and attack your cancer.
So far, there's promising results in trials that use this kind of immunotherapy against advanced or high-risk melanoma, as well as lung, kidney, cervical and even triple-negative breast cancer. One monoclonal antibody, ipilimumab, has been approved for T-cell immunotherapy against metastatic melanoma. These new approaches can be used by themselves or with traditional chemo, surgery and/or other immunotherapies.
With breast cancer, a combo of chemo/immune-boosting treatment may get the best results. Eventually, researchers think, the most effective treatments will unleash the immune system's ability to kill cancer cells by targeting several of their defenses at once. That's good news for more than 1.6 million North Americans diagnosed with cancer annually.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.