Excitement is growing for immunotherapy – therapies that harness the power of a patient’s immune system to combat their disease.
One approach to immunotherapy involves engineering the patient’s own immune cells to recognize and attack their tumors, known as adoptive cell transfer (ACT).
Early clinical trials have shown that these engineered immune cells have generated some remarkable responses in patients with advanced cancer. (ii Nature Medicine 2015)
While standard therapies for many common cancers remain toxic and are often ineffective, cellular immunotherapy has the potential to be a highly targeted alternative, with low toxicity to normal tissues but a high capacity to eradicate tumor.
But Jan Kimpen cautions that the treatment is in its infancy and is likely, at first, to benefit a limited number of patients
“There is no way you can deliver this to all patients. You will have to find a way – genomics will help – to select those patients that it could possibly benefit,” he says. “As a new modality of treatment, it will only find its place in oncology if you can squeeze the group to a lower number of patients; otherwise it will be too costly.”
He believes immunotherapy has a strong future in healthcare. It is being viewed as a potential alternative to chemotherapy and radiotherapy – with fewer side effects – but more research is needed, and the medical world needs to devise methods of early and accurate tumor diagnoses so that the immunotherapy can be targeted effectively.
Cancer remains a global scourge. It is a chronic disease needing long-term management with a huge cost burden. All the advances in science, technology and medicine must be coordinated to ensure they have the best chances of success.
Patients need personalized treatments and healthcare systems need to be restructured from the doctor’s surgery, through hospitals and clinics, to the home where monitoring devices and detection machines will play a bigger role in health.
But on this World Cancer Day, it is fitting to envisage the next generation of cancer progress where people can engage easily with their own health and take up the potential offered by connected devices to monitor conditions and focus on healthy living and disease prevention.
“We are addressing the growing need for a new approach to cancer care,” says Jan Kimpen. “We strive to deliver better, more personalized care to patients while reducing healthcare costs.”