Every second there is a battle going on between the good and evil inside our body. The good is our immune system, with cells as the army to defend the body from infection and illness. The evil can be the germ and mutated cells which can cause harm to the body.
When it comes to cancer, our immune system does not always win. However new immunotherapy treatments, ongoing research and emerging technologies are helping the doctors to assist the immune system to fight it.
In this article we will discuss the link between cancer and immunity. To understand that completely we will discuss
- How does the immune system fight cancer?
- Immune responses to cancer- Immunosurveillance versus Immunoediting
- Treating Cancer with Immunotherapy
- How can cancer patients boost their immune system?
How does the immune system fight cancer?
The immune system of the body involves the complex process to fight illness. Cancer can commonly overcome natural defenses of the immune system, permitting the cancer cells to grow continuously.
The primary function of our immune system is to protect our body from infections. When the immune system is poor, then a person may suffer infectious diseases, which can result in development of cancer.
According to the immunological surveillance theory, the immune system continuously surveys the body for the existence of malignant cells that are constantly occurring due to mutations.
It is possibly because the cancer cells do certainly express tumour-specific antigens (TSAs) or tumour-associated antigens (TAAs), which can be predicted as foreign elements by the immune system.
Immune responses to cancer- Immunosurveillance versus Immunoediting
Immunoediting process is predicted to have three phases: elimination, equilibrium, and escape.
Elimination phase is similar to immunosurveillance. In this phase growing tumour cells are effectively recognized and eliminated by the immune system, therefore tissues are returned to their normal state.
Tumour cells, which escape the immunosurveillance phase, will move to the equilibrium phase. In this phase the metastasis and tumour expansion are least and generally take place without symptoms.
In this phase, the immune system may ultimately eliminate all tumour cells causing results similar to the elimination phase. In a second situation, the continuous interaction of the immune system with tumours may edit the phenotype of the developing tumour, leading to the immunoselection of a tumour, which has been formed into a less-immunogenic state.
Then the tumours that are not left vulnerable to immune attack and they move into the escape phase. The clinical symptoms of cancer appear generally in the escape stage.
Tumour weakens the immune system, either directly through nonimmunogenic phenotype, or indirectly through different immunosuppressive mechanisms.
Treating Cancer with Immunotherapy
The immunotherapy treatments of different types act in different ways. Some immunotherapy treatments can assist the immune system to stop or slow down the cancer cells growth. Other immunotherapy treatments assist the immune system to destroy the cancer cells or stop spreading of cancer to other parts of the body. Immunotherapies can be used alone or in combination with other treatments of this disease.
Immunotherapy also called biological therapy assists in strengthening or restoring the ability of the immune system to fight this disease. It is used to:
- Stop it from spreading to other body parts
- Make the immune system more capable to kill cancer cells
- Slow or stop the its growth
- Deliver chemotherapy medicines or radiation treatment directly to the cancer cells
Types of immunotherapy:
Immunotherapy used to treat cancer includes:
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors: These are drugs, which inhibit the immune checkpoints. These checkpoints are a normal immune system part. By inhibiting them, these drugs permit the immune cells to respond more strongly against the cancer.
- T-cell transfer therapy: It is a treatment, which enhances the natural ability of the T cells to fight this disease. In this therapy, immune cells are taken from the tumor. The most active against the cancer are chosen to attack cancer cells.
- Monoclonal antibodies: These are immune system proteins formed in the lab, which are intended to serve as substitute antibodies that can restore, enhance or mimic the attack of the immune system on cancer cells.
- Treatment vaccines: They act against cancer by enhancing the response of the immune system to cancer cells.
- Immune system modulators: They boost the immune response of the body against this disease.
How can cancer patients boost their immune system?
Radiation and chemotherapy can lower the immune system. Therefore, it is very important for the cancer patient to boost immunity.
You can take the help of below-mentioned tips to improve your immunity during your treatments:
Sleep well: Poor or inadequate sleep at night can affect your body badly. Patients may get sick; have a cold or flu and some severe infections. Sleeping well is very important to boost immunity.
Eat healthy: Try to eat various healthy foods during your treatment. Proteins, fruits and vegetables will support your immune system and other body systems. Even if you don’t feel hungry, try eating small portions of food.
Exercise: Ask your doctor about the time to exercise and the types of exercise you can do. You should avoid exercise:
- When you are tired
- When the red blood count is low
- When the white blood cell count is low
Stress management: Stress is common in this disease. To manage stress one must eat healthy, exercise and sleep enough.
Try other ways to manage stress:
- Deep breathing
- Reading good books
- Talking to mental health professionals
Stay fit: Stay from crowded places as there are chances of germs around. Try some other tips to prevent bacterial infection:
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after eating food
- Set the temperature of fridge at or below 40 F
- Do not eat raw sprouts
- Quit smoking
- Limit alcohol consumption
Cancer treatments are the only ways to fight it; good nutrition can help in avoiding infections. The patients should be aware to avoid another illness as they are at risk of infections, due to weakened immune system during chemotherapy treatments. The best way to fight cancer is also strengthening your immune system.