Finding a way to recruit the body’s immune system to fight cancer has been the innovation that many researchers are working on. The idea is that, instead of chemotherapy, which can have nasty side effects and sometimes is ineffective, the body of a cancer patient would be trained in some manner to regard cancer tumors as foreign invaders, like a virus, so that they can be dealt with naturally.
A recent article in the UK Telegraph related a story of promising research taking place at Imperial College, London, that concerns a newly discovered protein that enhances the body’s ability to fight off chronic disease. The protein, called lymphocyte expansion molecule, does try to fight cancer by flooding the body with T cells. Unfortunately, the protein soon runs out of steam, and the cancer soon fights off the attack.
The idea is to genetically enhance the protein so that it creates many more times the T cells it ordinarily does. The T cells would then be enhanced with the protein and would then overwhelm the cancer, destroying it entirely. The process would also create immune memory cells that would prevent the cancer from returning, in effect acting as a cancer vaccine.
The researchers are proceeding to perform animal studies to test and refine the new technique. Human trials may begin in as few as three years. If the technique can be made to work in humans, the day could arrive when standard cancer therapies, based on chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, become a thing of the past.