Sabtu, 15 Maret 2008

Mesothelioma - Biological Treatments For Cancer

A recent method of treatment for mesothelioma and other cancers is the intensifying of biological defense mechanisms natural to the body itself. Normal cells produce substances that can block tumor growth, or stimulate the immune system and other natural defenses to attack the cancer. The agents that focus or strengthen natural defenses are called biological response modifiers or BRMs.

Intuitively, most of us have known that the human body had it's own mechanisms for fighting cancer and other diseases. BRMs however, are a medically high tech way of encouraging our natural body defenses to charge into action. These biological agents are often used side by side with other cancer treatments, including radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.

BRMs can prevent cancer from spreading, reverse the process whereby normal cells change to cancer cells, stop cancer cell growth, boost the immune system's attack on cancer, and make cancer more susceptible to being killed by the body's immune system. Her are some of the major BRMs under research.

  1. Interleukins are cytokines which are found naturally in the human body. Interleukins stimulate the growth of immune cells which destroy cancer cells. Research is under way using interleukins to treat a variety of cancers.
  2. Interferon, which is also a type of cytokine, can be isolated and given in cancer treatment to boost the immune system. Interferon can slows cancer growth or alter cancer cells so that they grow more like normal cells. Researchers are exploring the use of interferon in the treatment of many cancers
  3. Colony stimulating factors act differently. Colony stimulating factors affect the bone marrow, by stimulating the production of white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells. During chemotherapy, bone marrow can become suppressed, causing anemia and fatigue. The use of colony stimulating factors allows higher doses of chemotherapy than might be tolerated without it.
  4. Monoclonal antibodies (MOABs) are produced in a laboratory and are specific for a particular antigen. Research is now focusing on creating monoclonal antibodies that target cancer types. Some MOABs have the ability to stop cancer cell growth factors, and some can attach to cancer cells and deliver poisons that kill the cancer cells.
  5. Gene therapy inserts genetic material into cells. The genetic material may be designed to be inserted into immune cells in order to increase their cancer fighting abilities. It may also be placed into cancer cells, causing them to produce cytokines which stimulate the immune defense against the cancer itself.
  6. Cancer vaccines expose the body to weak of killed versions of the organism that causes the disease, and stimulate an immune response to protect from future disease. Another approach using vaccines, is to give a vaccine during the time of the disease. This is called therapeutic vaccination. These vaccines are under research in combination with other BRMs.

Just because these therapies are biological does not mean that they are without side effects. Side effects for these agents can vary from allergic reactions to nausea, and vomiting. Each of the BRMs have it's own associated possible side effects. The research is quite promising, however, and has been progressively adding to the arsenal of weapons for fighting mesothelioma, and other cancers.

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