CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – World Cancer Day is Saturday, Feb. 4, and while cancer rates have declined over the last two decades, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be over one-and-a-half million new cancer diagnoses in the United States this year, alone.
“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Dr. Kevin Lorentsen, FACP and lead physician at Summit Cancer and Hematology Services – Medical Oncology. “One of the most exciting breakthroughs we’ve seen in the last few years in terms of treating cancer has been immunotherapy – it’s a real game-changer.”
The development of immunotherapy got its start more than 150 years ago when Dr. William Coley, a New York-based physician discovered patients exposed to the bacterial “toxins” he created experienced remission of their tumors.
Today, immunotherapy drugs work to by unleashing a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.
“While traditional chemotherapy treatments are certainly effective, they tend to kill everything – good and bad,” explained Dr. Lorentsen. “Immunotherapy drugs essentially unleash the immune system to attack a patient’s cancer cells, allowing oncologists to target the ‘bad’ and keep the ‘good’ cells.”
In addition to more effectively targeting the cancer cells, many patients experience fewer adverse reactions, such as nausea and fatigue, after treatment.
As with other cancer therapies, immunotherapy is given in cycles, which means a patient is given a treatment followed by a period of rest.
“The rest period allows the body the chance to recover and respond to the treatment,” noted Dr. Lorentsen.
Summit Cancer & Hematology Services began offering immunotherapy treatments shortly after initial trials ended and they became readily available.
“At the time, offering these treatments just made sense. We didn’t think about how groundbreaking immunotherapy was; we just knew making immunotherapy available to our patients was the right thing to do.”
He said that as with any treatment, it’s not perfect and immunotherapy isn’t a cure-all.
“But it is getting oncologists and our patients one step closer to putting an end to cancer.”
For more information on Summit Cancer & Hematology Services, click here.