Immunotherapy & Cancer

Wouldn’t it be great if our own immune system could cure cancer?  Well, I believe it can. I have seen so many of our patients that have proven this. We have been using immunotherapy at New Hope Unlimited since 2007.

A research team has discovered how they feel this might come to fruition.  It forms the basis of an emerging cancer treatment called immunotherapy.  Andre Veillette, a researcher at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal (IRCM)/Montreal Clinical Research Institute and a professor of Universite de Montreal’s Faculty of Medicine, has an article in Nature about a rapidly developing field.  He and his team have discovered why this would work in some patients but not at all in others as the SLAMF7 molecule plays a predominant role.

An army of cells comprised of macrophages, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells that destroy microbes and other invaders is our immune system.  Some cancer cells do manage to fool these using a variety of strategems.  Immunotherapy can work to defeat these and provide a number of significant benefits.  It targets cancer cells and can spare healthy ones, unlike invasive chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Of course it isn’t always successful in the US and a considerable number of patients do not respond well to this treatment in the US.  It can also cause some patients to suffer major side effects due to a hyperactivated immune system.

The research group needed to understand why immunotherapy is effective in certain cases, especially a potential treatment involving CD47, a protein already recognized as an evasion of mechanism.  It acts like a chameleon, according to Dr. Jun Chen, first author of the study and postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Veillette’s lab.  Found on the surface of cancer cells it makes them appear to be healthy and tells the immune system NOT to destroy them.  That leaves the door open for tumor growth and metastasis.

CD47 has been found in a variety of cancer, including blood cancers, at high levels.  Those molecules that prevent it from binding to immune cells are being extensively studied as potential new anti-cancer treatments.  The team has identified another important component, a molecule called SLAMF7 that must be present on cancer cells for immune cells to be able to destroy them.  For those whose cancers do not have SLAMF7, the CD47 inhibitors could be counterproductive.

This discovery could be the key to predicting which patients would respond to CD47 inhibitors.  It could help in the patient’s cancer to determine if SLAMF7 is present from the outset, and if CD47 inhibitors would be a good choice of treatment.  Patients could be quickly redirected to an alternative treatment with a greater chance of success, known as precision medicine.

The IRCM lab hopes this discovery will contribute to the success of upcoming CD47 inhibitor clinical trials.

At New Hope Unlimited, we have been doing immunotherapy for years. The biggest difference from what we do rather than what the US does, is that we use all natural and no synthetic drugs. We do not have all the side effects that US patients go through. Hopefully, the US will develop more efficient protocols soon.

Dr Fredda Branyon