Israeli researchers have developed an entirely new approach towards fighting cancer – and a brand new drug that uses this approach with what appears to be amazing success.
The new approach is called immunotherapy and involves enhancing the body’s natural immune systems to destroy the cancer cells. This is a 180 degree turn from contemporary methods like chemotherapy and radiation therapy,that seek to destroy the cancer cells and unfortunately usually end up destroying useful cells and even damaging organs, and producing harmful side effects as well.
Known as Keytruda, the drug that halted Ben-Shabbat’s aggressive cancer is viewed today as the great hope for patients with metastatic melanoma, and just recently received US Food and Drug Administration approval. According to many experts in the field, Keytruda is likely to lead to a significant breakthrough in the treatment of cancer.
Unlike in the past, the innovative treatment does not focus on trying to destroy the malignant tumor by means of dangerous chemical drugs that come with serious side-effects. Instead, it serves to initiate gentle and sophisticated manipulations of the body’s natural immune system, with the purpose of spurring it on to attack and destroy the cancerous cells itself. If the new treatment mechanism, known as immunotherapy, lives up to expectations, the world of oncology could undergo a real revolution within just a few years.
“The new drug creates real potential for curing one of the deadliest forms of cancer, at the negligible cost of light and tolerable side-effects,” says Prof. Jacob Schachter, head of Sheba Medical Center’s Ella Institute for Melanoma. “Moreover, it completely alters the working assumptions in oncology treatment, as its working mechanism is effective in the war against other types of cancer too. There’s no doubt today that the holy grail of oncology lies in immunotherapy, which helps the body’s immune system to destroy the tumor’s cells itself.
“At this stage, we can only imagine the therapeutic potential of a combination of a number of such drugs, each acting on a different system, and some of which are already at an advanced stage of development. Among doctors, too, the scope of the breakthrough has yet to be digested.”
And it’s a breakthrough that is likely to revolutionize oncology:
Unlike chemotherapy, which is designed to destroy the malignant cells by means of chemical drugs, immunotherapy does not go to work on the tumor itself, but rather the healthy cells of our immune system. The new therapy centers on the knowledge that cancer cells are produced in our bodies all the time, and are immediately destroyed by the immune system. In other words, our bodies have the ability to destroy such cells, but sometimes lose this ability for some reason. Immunotherapy is designed to act in various ways to restore this lost ability.
“Every second, our bodies produce defective cells that do not follow the regular rules of the body,” says Dr. Gal Markel, chief scientist at Sheba’s Ella Institute. “One of the jobs of the immune system is to locate these defective cells and to destroy them. This process occurs on a daily basis in each and every one of us, but sometimes things go wrong. For various reasons – genetic or environmental – irregular cells that are a little more durable can be produced.”
According to Dr. Markel, the immune system studies the new cell and adapts itself in an attempt to destroy it, but the cells, too, respond accordingly, and thus survive. This process, in which cancerous cells remain under the control of the immune system in some kind of mutual balance of terror, can continue for years.
This means that when I, as a doctor, see a patient who has just been diagnosed, his immune system has already lost the ability to control the cancer. When a woman feels a lump in her breast, it’s a sign that her cancer cells have already defeated her immune system, and that the delicate balance between the system and the rogue cells has been upset. The moment this happens, the cancer begins to run rampant.”
Cancer research up until now has always focused on trying to destroy the cancerous cells and/or find out what causes the immune system stop destroying the dangerous cells.
What the Israelis found out is how to overcome the immune system’s natural restraint mechanism and get it to focus on the cancer cells that have managed to fool the immune system into not attacking them as it would a virus or infection.
“The efforts to activate the immune system by force failed because the fundamental problem does not lie with the system itself, but in the fact that the cancer can withstand it,” says Dr. Markel, who delivered an address on the subject last week at the TEDMED conference on innovativeness in the field of medicine. “An instance in which a cancerous tumor develops is not an instance in which the immune system has stopped functioning, as was thought in the past, but rather a case of the cancer managing to effectively avoid it. The big revolution offered by the new drugs, some of which are still in the developmental stage, is that they help the immune system in various ways to snare the cancerous cells that try to slip under the radar.”
Keytruda, the drug that was recently FDA approves has the ability to neutralize the immune system’s natural brakes and rev up its cancer fighting ability.
“There are other elements that help the cancer cells to survive in the body, but the brakes are a critical element,” Prof. Schachter explains. “Once they are out the way, the system begins to function like crazy. The new drug is more effective than the old one; it has fewer side-effects; and it works very quickly. Within weeks, the tumors shrink and the patients go back to living normal lives.”
Not the end of the tunnel, as Dr. Markel says, but the light at the end can already be seen.
I demand that every BDS screecher, every Hamas and ‘Palestine groupie’ and every ‘anti-Zionist’ avoid this drug. Just boycott it, along with all the other innovations that have come out of this amazing country.
What a paradox – that a nation that has brought so much good to the world and humanity is the one that is regarded as illegitimate and worthy of destruction by so many people.