Using the immune system to fight cancer

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iol scitech aug 6 cancer cells AP File photo: The superimposed arrow points to a 2cm rapidly enhancing lesion which was later confirmed by biopsy to be invasive breast cancer.

London - Scientists are this year hoping to harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer.

Recently researchers have pieced together how the immune system identifies and destroys abnormal cells, and suppresses tumour growth, as well as details of the tricks cancer cells deploy to evade these defences.

This has informed the development of a number of new drugs - because these target the immune system rather than the tumour, scientists believe they could work on a wide range of cancers, and multiple trials are taking place, with results of several due this year.

One of these drugs, Yervoy, has recently been approved as an NHS treatment - it is the first treatment shown to extend survival in patients with advanced melonoma.

It works by releasing the brakes on the immune cells that destroy cancers and is currently in trials for prostate and lung cancer, both on its own and in combination with other drugs. - Daily Mail

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