Immunotherapy represents a new hope for cancer patients

Immunotherapy, which strengthens the immune system, enabling it to detect cancerous cells more effectively, promises new hope for cancer patients, health experts said.

A womans receive breast cancer screening (Photo: VNA)

Immunotherapy, the latest cancer treatment approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, has been hailed as a breakthrough in oncology.

At a counseling workshop on targeted therapy and immunotherapy for cancers held in Ho Chi Minh City by Singapore’s Parkway Cancer Centre on April 2, Dr. Lim Hong Liang, the centre’s oncologists, said cancer cells have the ability to “camouflage” themselves in such a way that the body’s immune system is unable to detect and destroy them.

“The therapy, a protocol that uses drugs, can aid in stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, and prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.”

People with cancer experience a breakdown of the immune system, which inhibits the body’s natural defences and ability to recognise cancerous cells.

However, some other attendees told the workshop that the new treatment did not signify the end of humanity’s struggle against cancer.

It is important for patients to know that, like all medical treatments, there are certain limitations to what immunotherapy can achieve, according to the experts.

Doctors have a responsibility to share and clear misconceptions surrounding the therapy.

For instance, there is a common misconception that immunotherapy can be used to all types of cancers.

It has shown promising results, especially in treating lung cancer and melanoma, and is also effective in treating lymphatic, colon, gastric, head and neck cancers.

Researchers and clinicians are just beginning to learn how best to use immunotherapy, and in its current stage of development do not use it in early state cancers.

It sometimes causes short- and long-term side effects such as shortness of breath, skin rashes, transient fall in blood pressures and flu-like symptoms, but the toxicity profile is less significant than traditional treatments and considerably safer.

As opposed to standard chemotherapy and targeted agents, the positive responses through immunotherapy are sometimes evident even after discontinuing the treatment.

“However, prevention and education about healthy lifestyle and screening (are very) important,” Foo Kian Fong, the centre’s other oncologist said.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, in 2012, Vietnam had 125,036 new cancer patients, of whom 94,743 died.

The five most common cancers in terms of both incidence and mortality were of the liver, lung, stomach, breast and colorectum.

In 2015, the HCM City Oncology Hospital alone diagnosed and treated more than 100,000 people for cancer, 70 percent of them from the southern region

Vietnamplus

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