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Patient's Cells Deployed to Attack Aggressive Cancer

By: Dr. Christopher Ho on May 9, 2014, 10:38 pm

Dr Shaye, Dr Lashkari and I are often asked about the cutting edge in therapy against cancer. 

A common question is what medications or foods can be taken to boost the immune system in able to better fight cancer in the body. 

Cancer has particular characteristics, which have been well described since a seminal paper published in Cell in 2000, titled Hallmarks of Cancer
In that important article, the ability of a cancer to evade the immune system is a characteristic. Therefore, a non-specific boost to the immune system would unlikely be of benefit, if a cancer was  able to evade the immune system. 

Cancer affecting the ducts of the liver are called biliary tract cancers, also known as cholangiocarcinoma. They may also be called gallbladder cancer, klatskin's tumors depending upon the location of the cancer along the tract of biliary system in the liver. 

Symptoms from cholangiocarcinomas include nausea, vomiting, loss of weight, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and darkening of the urine). Symptoms similar to liver failure may also occur, such as clay colored stools as well as swelling of the abdomen (ascites). 

Because there are few nerves in the liver, most patients present in a relatively late stage unless found incidentally on surgery. It is not rare for a cancer to be found during surgery for the gallbladder and subequently found in the laboratory on review of the specimen removed from a patient. 

Surgery is generally the best option if possible. 

However since most cancer present later in stage, systemic therapy with chemotherapy is often the only option. 

In this interesting article below, a young patient has achieved amazing results with early clinical trials at the National Cancer Institute. Instead of simply boosting the immune system, researchers gave the immune system a specific target (a mutation on the cancer cells), and then amplified the response. I read this article with great interest. 


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/09/health/doctors-use-patients-immune-cells-to-shrink-cancer-tumors.html?src=me&ref=general&_r=0