Cancer is something that most have heard of, and worry about. There are so many different types of cancer, and they are all taken extremely seriously due to it being able to cause more harm if left unattended to. When people think of cures and treatments for cancer, the most common one that is used across many different kinds is chemotherapy. While useful, it is not always effective, and it does not work on every type of cancer. Despite chemotherapy being the leading treatment against cancer, there are talks of a new treatment that “may treat all cancer.”
BBC reported a study done that mentioned that there may be “A newly-discovered part of our immune system could be harnessed to treat all cancers.” However, before we look at this new possible treatment, we should first dive into how chemotherapy works. Chemotherapy is the process in which we use drugs to destroy cancer cells. While it can not always completely destroy cancer cells, it still aims to either keep the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and/or making new cells. The drugs in chemotherapy are meant to attack rapidly dividing cells, which is usually what cancer falls under. Despite this seeming all great, there are some drawbacks. Other rapidly dividing cells in our body include the lining of our stomach and hair, which is why some people lose hair and have digestive problems when undergoing chemotherapy. With all this in mind, it is important to note that chemotherapy is not always used for the destruction of cancer, but sometimes to weaken it in order to work as an aid to other treatments. All of this goes to show chemotherapy’s versatility, accessibility, and utility.
Now that we know the traditional treatment to most cancers, chemotherapy, we can look at the potentially new treatment and how well it works and if it is the new best option.
This new study uses our immune system to help treat cancer, whereas chemotherapy uses drugs. These researchers studied how the immune system naturally responded to cancerous tumors. Normally, T-cells are used to fight all kinds of infections, but are not always effective against combating cancer. However, the T-cells that the researchers have discovered “could attack a wide range of cancers.” They even stated that “there’s a chance to treat every patient.” What made this T-cell different is that its receptors, which are what allow normal T-cells to detect certain infections, are able to detect most cancerous cells. Not only could they detect them, but they can kill lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells. This particular T-cell interacts with a molecule called MR1, so they are trying to figure out how to pair these together consistently, reliably, and safely.
This cancer treatment seems to work during all stages of the cancer cell’s life. Normally, as we learned in bio class, cancer cells are typically created from a gene mutation in either the oncogene or tumor-suppressor genes. These genes normally stop or terminate the soon to be cancer cell, but when mutated they can not do their job properly, thus leading to a cancer cell being created and duplicating unchecked. Once it is at this stage, the T-cells are able to do their work. I think that this is an interesting treatment as it can be used to help treat most stages of cancer, and could potentially be taken pro-actively in order to activate these T-cells in the body, making them always ready to fight off any cancerous cells. I believe that this could make it a safer, and more proactive version of chemotherapy.
This new cancer treatment might seem promising, but there is no timeline on when a mass-produced reliable treatment using this method will be complete. Despite this, it is important to know that this could hopefully be an option for many in the future, and can hopefully combat and win the worldwide fight against cancer.