Cancer immunotherapy: Scientist from US speaks on how they try to teach immunity to kill cancer cells

October 19, 2019  20:15

Immunotherapy is one of the newest and most promising approaches to the treatment of tumors with antibodies. Immunotherapy CAR-T is a new approach, the idea of ​​which is to teach the body's immune system to recognize cancer cells, Professor of Penn State College of Medicine (US) Nikolay Dokholyan, who came to Armenia to participate in WCIT told Medicine.

The professor works in the Center for Translational Systems Research, whose employees are engaged in research in the treatment of two groups of diseases - oncological and neurodegenerative, such as Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Speaking about methods of treating cancer with immunotherapy, the professor noted that the idea is to teach the body's immune system to recognize cancer cells and attack them.

If the immune system recognizes cancer cells, then our body will kill the cancer itself, and no medicine will be needed. To do this, white cells are taken from the patient, T cells, and are “engineered” so that they recognize special receptors in this particular type of cancer. That is, for a particular cancer there will be a corresponding “reengineering”. Then these cells are introduced again into the patient, and they begin to fight cancer. The success of this CAR-T therapy is insanely strong, and it has already been shown on some patients around the world, he said.

However, this method may have side effects. First of all, this is a very strong immunological reaction. And now scientists are trying to understand how this problem can be prevented. The second problem is that when you do reengineering, you create a new molecule, it is likely that it will not work correctly. Side effects are possible, so we are trying to improve these molecules, he added.

This method, according to the expert, today is mainly used to treat leukemia, but in the future it will be applicable to all types of cancer. However, it is still difficult to say when this therapy will become part of the standard cancer treatment. The fact is that this technology, unfortunately, is very expensive, and its research requires large investments.

The problem of modern medicine is that we learn to better fight diseases, but at a great price. Therefore, it is not clear how to go further, because a moral dilemma arises, he added.

The high cost of drugs, according to Doholyan, is associated with the development time: a conventional medicine lasts about 10 years, and the company invests millions of dollars in development. After the medicine enters the market, the company has very little time to recoup its investments - this is due to high prices.

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