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Using Your Immune System to Fight Cancer

Using Your Immune System to Fight Cancer

By |2023-07-13T09:31:12-04:00July 12th, 2023|Categories: Cancer|Tags: , |

Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are standard weapons in the fight against cancer. But what if there was a way to activate your body’s immune system to attack cancer cells?

The body’s intricate network of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues is hardwired to prevent or limit infection. When cancer develops, cells don’t stop growing and dividing. These cells form lumps of tissue that continue to grow unstopped by the body’s natural defenses.

“Cancer cells are your own cells, not a foreign virus from the outside, so your body doesn’t recognize them as a threat,” explains CentraState hematologist oncologist Bhavesh Balar, MD. “As they continue to grow, they form a shield around themselves that protects them from the body’s immune system.”

How Immunotherapy Works

Immunotherapy is a personalized, targeted method to precisely destroy cancer with little to no impact on healthy cells. By taking advantage of the particular traits of certain cancers, immunotherapy drugs are engineered to break down the protective shields of cancer cells, so the immune system recognizes them as foreign and attacks them. The challenge is finding the specific process that’s driving the cancer.

“We have far more options to treat cancer now than just a few years ago,” Dr. Balar says. “By examining the genetic makeup and molecular profile of the cancer cells, we can identify potential therapies that are customized for each cancer.”

For example, your body has checkpoint proteins to keep the immune system from attacking normal cells. Unfortunately, some cancers also contain many of these proteins, protecting cancer cells from the immune system. Checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that stop these proteins from functioning, enabling the immune system to attack the cancer cells. CentraState has successfully used checkpoint inhibitors and numerous other immunotherapy medications to treat a variety of cancers, including melanoma and lung, bladder, and kidney cancers.

Immunotherapy is given intravenously and may be used alone or combined with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Side effects vary depending on the patient and the therapies used. After treatment, patients are monitored periodically through blood tests, physical exams, and CT scans.

“We now have novel treatments to fight cancer even for those diagnosed with rare and advanced forms,” Dr. Balar says.

For more information on the Statesir Cancer Center at CentraState, visit or call 855-411-CANCER (855-411-2262).

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