Cancer, the big ‘C’ is a dreaded word for patients and medical professionals alike. In simple words, cancer refers to abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells. Many cancers are not detected or do not cause symptoms until advanced stages, making it challenging to treat the condition. Advanced stages are associated with symptoms because the cancer (primary tumor) metastasizes to other parts of the body through blood or lymph fluid, thereby causing multiple system complications.
The need of the hour is advances in cancer therapy that prolong survival of the patient while ensuring maintenance of quality of life. It is imperative to not only treat the primary source of cancer/tumor, but also metastasis in order to achieve tangible results. Immmunotherapy is one such groundbreaking advance which harnesses the power of cells of the immune system and trains them to specifically attack cancerous cells.
Dr. Pradeep Mahajan, Regenerative Medicine Researcher, StemRx Bioscience Solutions Pvt. Ltd. explains, “In cancer, tissues express several antigens, which can be targeted by immunotherapy. Dendritic cells, Natural Killer cells etc., which are cells of the innate immune system are capable of inducing, sustaining and regulating T cell responses which then target cancer cells. These cells can be given as vaccines after isolation from the patients’ body and loading them with antigens. These antigen loaded immune cells home to lymphoid organs where they activate T cells and result in antitumor immunity and clinical response”.
Specificity and generation of long term immune surveillance against cancer cells is the chief goal of immunotherapy. Treatment using dendritic cell, natural killer cell vaccine is just one form of targeted immunotherapy. Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T cells, monoclonal antibodies, immune checkpoint inhibitors and other non-specific immunotherapies are also being researched for cases of malignancy.
“StemRx aims to explore recent advances in cancer therapy and is collaborating with national and international organizations to bring technologies into our country. StemRx has launched the first CliniMACS Prodigy system in India, which is a certified GMP-grade cell manufacturing system that simplifies isolation of immune system cells (T cells) for subsequent use in immunotherapy. StemRx has also collaborated with CBC, Japan to bring in the Cellex NK cell technology to India. With these advances, we will soon be able to conquer the deadly disease”, concludes Dr. Mahajan.
Dr. Adwait Gore Medical Oncologist from Zen Hospital said, “Metastasis develops when cancer cells break away from the site of original (primary) tumor and travel to a different part of the body by entering the lymphatic system or via blood. “High grade cancer” indicates the aggressive biological behaviour of the disease.
“When cancer spreads to a new location, it is still named after the area of the body where it has started. For example: a person with breast cancer that has spread to the bones is said to have a Stage 4 breast cancer with bone metastases. If a cancer has spread widely throughout the body before the primary is discovered it is termed as “cancer of unknown primary origin.”
Thus metastatic cancer can be only diagnosed once all the investigations related to Tumour, Node and Metastasis (TNM) are done.” Dr. added.