Immune Support Therapy

Immune Support Therapy

Immune Support Therapy

IMMUNE SUPPORT THERAPY (ADVANCED DENDRITIC CELL THERAPY) - AN EMERGING IMMUNOTHERAPY
   
Cancer immunotherapy has come at the right time as much of the twentieth century's focus was on cancer immunosurveillance. Despite the availability of multiple modalities of cancer treatment, the therapeutic benefits the patients receive are still insufficient. For decades, cancer researchers have been interested in immunologic treatments against cancer but with little progress. The lack of effective treatment modalities for many inoperable solid malignancies led to the search of new therapeutic options such as adaptive immunotherapy. Immune Support Therapy (IST) has emerged as a new and promising immunotherapeutic approach for the treatment of cancer and is gaining momentum as the fourth modality for the treatment of cancer.
 
THE FUNCTION OF DENDRITIC CELLS (DCs)
   
The functions of the dendritic cell in the human body can be categorized as antigen presentation and activation of T cells, maintaining the immune tolerance and also maintaining the immune memory in tandem with B cells.Thus the mature dendritic cells are exploited for its use in cancer immunotherapy.
 
DISCOVERY OF DENDRITIC CELLS
 
Dendritic cells were first described by Ralph Steinman nearly thirty years ago. He found a population of striking dendritic-shaped cells in the spleen. Shortly thereafter it became clear that DCs existed in all lymphoid and most non-lymphoid tissues. The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 2011 has been shared by Ralph M. Steinman along with two other scientists "for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity".

WHAT ARE DENDRITIC CELLS?
 
Dendritic cells (DCs) are immune cells that form part of the mammalian's immune system. They are present in every person's tissues, mainly the skin and the inner lining of the nose, lungs, stomach and intestines and their main function is antigen presentation.
           
Once activated, they migrate to the lymphoid tissues where they interact with T cells and B cells to initiate and shape the adaptive immune response.  Dendtitic cells (DCs) are a highly specialized subtype of white blood cells with a unique function. DCs can pick up foreign cells or cell particles including cancer cells with the help of tentacle-like structures called “dendrites”. Within the DC the cancer cells are destroyed and several pieces of the foreign material (antigens) are displayed on the cell surface of DCs.

The exhibition of antigens on the surface of the DC is recognized by other cellular effector cells that recognize and destroy tumor cells displaying similar material as expressed by DCs. In this way, DCs “tutor” the effector cells what type of cells are harmful for the body while the search and the destruction of tumor cells are mediated by specific killer cells. 
   
WHAT DO DENDRITIC CELLS DO FOR THE BODY?
   
Dendritic cells are in every person's tissues. Their usual function is to identify a foreign substance, including cancer cells, and process the bits of such foreign substances and then jumpstart the immune response by bringing the foreign substance to the attention of the rest of the immune system (mostly T lymphocyte cells). The activated immune system is then able to circulate throughout the body and destroy the cancer cells.

WHAT IS IMMUNE SUPPORT THERAPY?
  
Immune Support Therapy is an autologous process that involves the harvesting of peripheral blood Mononuclear cells from the patient’s own blood by a process called Leukopheresis. The cells are then cultured in the specialized and sophisticated laboratory in the presence of immune stimulatory agents (cytokines) and matured into dendritic cells by exposing them to the patient’s own inactivated tumor cells or with certain tumor specific proteins.
 
Matured dendritic cells are infused through IV to the patient to boost and fortify the immune system of the patient. It provides necessary impetus the body requires to fight back the cancer.  

The heart of the dendritic cell process is the presentation of the immature dendritic cells with cancer specific tumor cells. Each cancer tumor has certain proteins that are phagocytosed by the dendritic cells and the Phagocytosed peptides are then presented on the surface of the dendritic cells for the activation and proliferation of the T cells. The T cells proliferate and secrete certain cytokines that act on the cancer cells. It is different from the conventional therapeutic modalities like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as it is highly customised and tailor-made for individual patients and it amplifies the patient’s natural body defense mechanism.

WHAT KIND OF CANCERS CAN BE TREATED WITH IMMUNE SUPPORT THERAPY?
 
Theoretically, all solid cancers can be treated by dendritic cells. To date, therapeutic benefit has been documented in B cell lymphoma, myeloma, melanoma, head and neck, prostate cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and renal cell cancer amongst others.
 
AT WHAT CANCER STAGE SHOULD A PATIENT CONSIDER IMMUNE SUPPORT THERAPY?
 
The patient can consider Immune Support Therapy at any stage of the cancer.
 
HOW EFFECTIVE IS IMMUNE SUPPORT THERAPY?
   
Responses have generally been promising as it is an autologous process; it reduces cancer morbidity and improves the quality of life. Depending on the type of cancer and the functional status of patients the response may differ from patient to patient.