‘IMMUNOTHERAPY’ : THE FUTURE OF CANCER TREATMENT
What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘cancer’? If we’re not talking about the zodiac cancer but about the disease cancer, it’ll probably give you a scare. Cancer is considered as the second biggest cause of death in India after heart disease. India registered 7,84,821 deaths due to cancer in 2018 and this number is expected to surge further in the coming years. These startling figures are indeed dreadful and they call for an innovative approach, beyond traditional cancer treatments such as immuno-oncology. Dr Ajit Saxena, a senior consultant, Urology at Indraprastha Apollo hospitals New Delhi and founder of Delhi Tumor Board, spoke about the advantages of immunotherapy in a press conference organized by Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals and Delhi Tumor Board ‘REGD’.
Dr Saxena said that traditionally, chemotherapy is used to treat cancer even at an advanced stage but a major disadvantage of this treatment method is its inability to discriminate between healthy and cancerous cells, due to which many healthy cells are also lost which further deteriorates the body of an already weakened person. This is where immunotherapy comes in. It is being hailed as the next revolution in the field of cancer treatment. Immuno- oncology is an exciting new area of cancer treatment which looks into innovative techniques to utilize the potential of one’s own immune system to tackle even advanced stages of the disease.
Delhi Tumor Board, the brainchild of Dr Saxena, aims to disseminate awareness about this innovative treatment method not only among the public but also within the medical community. Dr Saxena emphasized on the need to link clinicians and scientists so that the former implements the various successful therapies in treating their patients. He points out that the problem is that both units are working more or less in isolation. Cancer immunology: from lab to clinic is a small effort to bridge that gap.
Immuno-oncology has been credited with various successes and many people such as Lisa Ray and former US President Jimmy Carter are living proof of that. Immunotherapy not only reduces the chances of remission, but it also removes the debilitating side-effects associated with the traditional cancer treatment. There are four ways in which immunotherapy is being tried at present. These are: monoclonal antibodies, immune checkpoint inhibitors, cancer vaccines and CAR-T cell therapy.
Scientists Dr James Allison and Dr Tasuku Honjo received the 2018, Nobel Prize for medicine for their revolutionary discovery in the field of cancer immunotherapy. Their work is truly a paradigm shift in cancer therapy. Dr Saxena believes in the immense talent of Indian scientists and clinicians and says that ‘with such events, where collaborative dialogue is encouraged, India will one day be at the forefront of clinical research globally.