Bengaluru: It seems like the concept of "co-existence", coined by American medical scientist Judah Folkman more than decade ago, can now be seen among cancer patients in the city. A chapter on Angiogenesis in medicine textbooks, written by him, mentioned the concept of "Co-Existence" eloquently.
Judah maintained, “We will reach a time in history in our war with cancer when we will learn to Co-Exist. A point in time, when immune systems will be checkpoint regulators for keeping tumours at bay, but not killing them. When immune system gets activated in such way, we would see that tumours will not grow or spread, but just remain where they are without having the power to invade systems and metastasis. A time of perfect co-existence will come when we understand these immune mechanisms."
It means that we will reach a time when cancer patients will be able to live with the disease for years, just like any other lifestyle disease or chronic disease. A concept which is not new, but however lost in the process of treating cancer, which focuses only on killing the cancer cells and in the process killing the immune cells. “The biggest question when it comes to cancer continues to be ‘why does not your immune system find cancer cells and try to fight it’,” says Dr Vishal Rao U.S., Head, Neck Surgical Oncologist and Robotic Surgeon, at HealthCare Global (HCG).
He stresses that the new approach of immune therapy helps patients with no chance of cure and with doctors already timing the battle with cancer. However, this is only possible with a multiple approaches, including low doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy and strong nutrition.
“Basically, it is resetting the immune system. For most of the compromised immune system after standard treatment, our goal is to develop immune balance with some cancer cells in them. But those cancer cells are in check and not as a full-blown tumour. We do have a few cases of patients who came to us after all treatments failed and have survived in spite of all odds," explains Dr Gururaj.
He says, “It is an evolving process and the idea is to use the immune cells of the immune system of the patients to recognise cancer to keep it in check.”One success story is of David, a helmet seller from Koramangala, with metastatic cancer of jaw due to tobacco chewing. The tumours had spread from jaw to his lungs, bones and many other parts. “David was terminally ill and on morphine when he met me for pain relief. Today, it is almost two years and he coexists with his tumours. He now wants a plastic surgery," says Dr Vishal.