Cancer is not new. Evidence of tumors in human beings dates back over a million years. How we treat cancer is ever-evolving. Surgery to treat cancer was among the earliest treatments. With the discovery of x rays in the late 1800s, radiation became the standard treatment for a variety of cancers. Chemotherapy followed.
Today, these cancer treatment options remain in use, both separately and in combination. However, the ill effects of these treatments remain. Surgery may be a good option where the cancer has not spread. Removal of the tumor from the body is the best way to eradicate it. However, without early detection, surgical cures are rare. Once cancer has metastasized, that is, once it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs, surgery is usually ineffective.
Radiation and chemotherapy are also still first-line cancer therapies. Both can be effective in treating many different types of cancer. But, while these therapies slow the growth of cancers, they rarely cure it. The toxicity of treatment is often as bad as the cancer itself.
All this has left scientists searching for a better way to treat and cure cancer. Immunotherapy – using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer – has led to huge advances in treatment, without the side effects of other modalities. Immunotherapy agents are a broad class of drugs designed to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer. We have previously written about this therapy in this blog.
Recently, a new type of immunotherapy has looked very promising. While immunotherapy treatment for cancer has generally been around since the 1980s, researchers today are studying a new variant in the drug class. Previous immunotherapy agents were of one certain antibody type called “IgG.” Today, however, a new antibody type, called “IgE,” is being studied. The difference may seem nuanced to us, but the difference for patients could be lifesaving. In recent clinical trials, this new cancer therapy has worked in patients who have not responded to more traditional therapies.
As a result of advances in cancer treatment, there are over 18 million cancer survivors in the U.S. today. If you have cancer, talk to your doctor about the new treatment options that might be available for you. If you are a current or former railroad worker and think your cancer could have been caused by exposure to carcinogens at work, call us for a free consultation.