This week on Navigating the Cancer Maze I re-presented an interview with Dr Horst Lindhofer PhD, Munich, Germany who was the creator of Tri-Functional antibodies. In the last segment – I provide an overview and more resources plus coming events for those who live in or near Brisbane. For more information visit:
http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au Interview links:
Immunotherapy is not new. It is interesting to take a look at the History of Immunotherapy and it’s pioneers.
In the 1850s, doctors in Germany noticed that patients’ tumours would occasionally shrink if their tumour became infected. This observation led to the idea that the body’s immune system could be harnessed and made to fight cancer.
Around the same time, doctors throughout Europe, encouraged by the success of Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccine, attempted to make a ‘cancer vaccine’ by injecting patients with crude extracts of tumours from other cancer patients. These treatments were largely ineffective, but the field of ‘immunotherapy’ was born.
Initial progress on immunotherapy was slow, and over a hundred years’ work in the laboratory yielded little success in actual cancer treatment. This all changed when in 1975, Georges Köhler and César Milstein, working in Cambridge, discovered how to make synthetic antibodies.
Their discovery, coupled with an ever-increasing understanding of the immune system, has led to a variety of treatments and strategies that use the immune system to tackle cancer. Some, such as the antibody-based breast cancer drug Herceptin, are now used routinely to treat cancer patients.
Professor Jérôme Galon, Ph.D. whom I recently interviewed on Navigating the Cancer Maze received the William B. Coley Award in 2010. The award was established in 1975 in honor of Dr. William B. Coley, a pioneer of cancer immunotherapy, whose daughter, Helen Coley Nauts, founded Cancer Research Institute. To understand Immunotherapy – please take 7 minutes to view this excellent video:
Immunotherapy: Boosting the immune system to fight cancer
William B. Coley, in 1891, injected streptococcal organisms into a patient with inoperable cancer. He thought that the infection he produced would have the side effect of shrinking the malignant tumor. He was successful, and this was one of the first examples of immunotherapy. Over the next forty years, as head of the Bone Tumor Service at Memorial Hospital in New York, Coley injected more than 1000 cancer patients with bacteria or bacterial products. These products became known as Coley’s Toxins. He and other doctors who used them reported excellent results, especially in bone and soft-tissue sarcomas.
Despite his reported good results, Coley’s Toxins came under a great deal of criticism because many doctors did not believe his results. This criticism, along with the development of radiation therapy and chemotherapy, caused Coley’s Toxins to gradually disappear from use. However, the modern science of immunology has shown that Coley’s principles were correct and that some cancers are sensitive to an enhanced immune system. Because research is very active in this field, William B. Coley, a bone sarcoma surgeon, deserves the title “Father of Immunotherapy.”
Further acceptance of his ideas was brought about by Coley’s own children. His son Bradley (1892-1961), also an orthopaedic surgeon, succeeded him as the head of the Bone Tumor Service at Memorial Hospital. Bradley Coley’s major textbook on bone tumors was published in 1948, and while advocating surgery as the main treatment for bone sarcomas, he supported the use of Coley’s toxin as adjunctive therapy. He believed that it would be of value in preventing micro-metastasis. His daughter, Helen Coley Nauts (1907-2001), became a cancer researcher and devoted her life to the study of her father’s toxins. She tabulated every patient he treated and reviewed all his notes. She published 18 monographs and tabulated over 1000 of his cases and noticed that in 500 of these there was near-complete regression. She founded Cancer Research Institute in New York.
Read stories of patients successes immunotherapy trials from Cancer Research Institute at: Select from the menu ‘Who is the Immunocommunity’ and select the drop down menu ‘Patients Stories’
Immunotherapy can be local or systemic.
Local immunotherapy delivers the treatment to the affected area. For example, the BCG vaccine can be injected into the bladder to treat bladder cancer, as it causes inflammation that can cause the tumour to shrink.
Systemic therapy treats the whole body and is useful for targeting cancer that may have spread. In the 1980s, scientists at the Cancer Research UK Medical Oncology Unit at the Christie Hospital in Manchester showed that the protein interferon alpha could cause tumours to shrink in patients with low-grade lymphoma. Interferon is now used to treat several different types of cancer.
Immunotherapy can also be non-specific or targeted.
Non-specific immunotherapy works by boosting the body’s immune system in general, so that its natural cancer-killing activity is enhanced. Both of the examples of local and systemic therapies (above) are also examples of non-specific immunotherapy.
Targeted immunotherapy is designed to make the immune system specifically kill cancer cells. The following types of targeted immunotherapy are available or are in development:
Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system. A type of white blood cell called a B-cell produces them in response to an infection. Normally, antibodies stick to foreign objects in the body and label them for destruction. Researchers have been trying to make antibodies that will attach themselves only to cancer cells. This can be useful in four ways.
- It can stop the cancer from growing by stopping other essential ‘growth factors’ from sticking to it.
- It can ‘tag’ the cancer for destruction by the immune system.
- If cancer drugs or radioactive particles are attached to the antibody, it can deliver them directly to the cancer cell without harming the rest of your body.
- An enzyme (a type of protein that can promote chemical reactions) can be attached to an antibody, and then given to a patient along with a chemical that can be turned into a powerful drug by the enzyme. This directs the drug to the cancer, and minimise side effects. This process is known as Antibody-directed Enzyme/Pro-drug Therapy (ADEPT).
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT IMMUNO-THERAPY already available in Germany for Clinical use – please contact me via the contact form on this blog or email to my new email address for enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org