The role of the immune system is to recognize and attack dangerous foreign bodies that have entered the body, such as bacteria or viruses. It should do the same with abnormal cells that cannot function correctly, which includes cancer cells. Unfortunately, sometimes diseases like mesothelioma make it past the body’s defenses because the immune system cannot distinguish them from healthy cells.
Recently, researchers have been working on a potential solution to this problem known as immunotherapy. This is a kind of treatment designed to strengthen the body’s ability to recognize and target cancerous cells. Most forms of mesothelioma immunotherapy are still in the research stage, but oncologists are hopeful about the future of this groundbreaking researching.
How Immunotherapy Works
Every cell in your body contains markers, which are unique proteins that help the immune system identify them; they are almost like name tags for cells. Self-markers inform your immune system that a certain cell is part of your body and should not be attacked. Non-self markers signify that a cell, bacterium, virus, or other body is an antigen, which is an invader that should be attacked.
Mesothelioma is allowed to spread through the body because the cancerous cells it is composed of do not carry recognizable non-self markers. In other words, the immune system fails to recognize these cells as a threat or effectively respond to them. Immunotherapy works by “teaching” the immune system to recognize and respond to cancerous cells.
One way to do this is to simply make antibodies for cancerous cells in a lab. An antibody is a protein that attaches to an antigen, allowing the body to recognize it as an invading body. Researchers are developing the technology to remove cancerous cells, develop antibodies for them, and place these antibodies in the patient’s immune system.
Another form of immunotherapy involves changing the cancerous cells themselves to make them more recognizable to the immune system. A few cancerous cells may be removed from a patient’s body, altered to carry non-self markers, and then replaced in the patient’s body. As they multiply, the immune system will learn to recognize and attack these cells.
The Future of Mesothelioma Immunotherapy
So far mesothelioma immunotherapy has been primarily tested in animal studies and some clinical trials using human patients. It has not yet become a typical treatment for mesothelioma. However, initial results are promising, and in the future mesothelioma immunotherapy may be a safe, effective way to treat this tragic condition. If you have any questions on this topic, contact the mesothelioma lawyers of Williams Kherkher today by calling 800-781-3955.