Dendritic Cell Therapy as a Promising Cancer Treatment Method

Cancer detection as well as treatment is a challenge for a country with a large population such as India. However, the presence of a large population also offers tremendous opportunity to every cancer specialist institute as well, and so it is more like a double edged sword.

Methods of Cancer Treatment

A number of methods for cancer treatment are available in India, though it cannot be said that they will all be able to cure cancer. Different methods such as immunotherapy are available. Other than immunotherapy, the other techniques are as follows:

  • Stem cells transplant
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Precision medicine and targeted therapy 
  • Radiation therapy

Among the methods given above, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are most common. Unfortunately, both of these have been found to show a number of side effects. Methods like immunotherapy as well as targeted therapy have shown greater prominence lately due to minimum side effects. 

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More about immunotherapy

As the name suggests, immunotherapy makes use of the body’s immune system to fight the cancerous cells. This can be made possible either by boosting or stimulating those cells in the body, or by preparing substances within the lab that are similar to  immunity components and using them to mimic the actions of the immune system. 

Immunotherapy works better for some cancers than others. Several immunotherapy treatments are being tried and then approved these days. While it works fine on its own for certain cancers, it is also suitable with other methods for others. 

Major benefits

Other than causing no major side effects, this method of treatment has other benefits as well. These are as follows:

  1. It works well when other methods are not effective. As an example, skin cancer does not respond well to chemotherapy or radiation but greatly reduces through immunotherapy.
  2. Other therapies like chemotherapy are often more effective in conjunction with this
  3. Cancers treated with immunotherapy are very unlikely to return. It trains the immune cells to attack if ever the cancer tries to return. Patients here are naturally cancer-free for longer periods of time.   
  4. It provides a good quality of life to several terminally ill patients, and also prolongs life

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About Dendritic Cell Therapy (DCT)

This therapy makes use of a component of the human immune system called dendritic cells. Such cells activate the body to fight the cancer from within. It has been in use since the year 2010 and has been highly effective in the treatment of:

  • Glioma
  • Sarcoma
  • Melanoma
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer

The method followed is this:

  1. Necessary cells are taken out from blood 
  2. These cells are manipulated in a lab, enabling them to attack the patient’s malignancy
  3. The new cells are then injected into the body as a vaccine

Similar to other immune therapies, this is also not used on its own but in conjunction with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or another type of immune therapy. Being a combined drug, its efficiency in treatment is significantly high. 

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Where are dendritic cells found?

The vaccine developed as per dendritic cell therapy majorly comprises of dendritic cells. These cells are very common protective agents in the body, being present in the skin, mucous membranes, and blood. They are the first to carry out a reaction upon the entry of bacteria or viruses.

Good news

Pancreatic and prostatic cancers have already received FDA approval for the use of immunotherapy as a whole, for cancer treatment. Even developed nations such as USA have now accepted this type of modern treatment. A large number of treatment and research facilities all over the world are rapidly adopting this therapy. 

Considering the number of lives being lost to cancer every year, this is surely a welcome development. This is greatly helpful for women as well since cancer mortality amongst them is also on the rise in the world. Late detection and low awareness have unfortunately been the major challenges in the developing world. 

Advantage of Dendritic Cell Therapy

  • Personalized Treatment: Dendritic cell therapy is tailored to each patient’s unique cancer profile. The patient’s own dendritic cells are used to target specific cancer antigens, increasing the treatment’s effectiveness.
  • Targeted Response: The therapy activates the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells specifically, minimizing damage to healthy tissues and reducing side effects.
  • Immunological Memory: Dendritic cell therapy can create memory T-cells that “remember” cancer antigens, providing long-term protection against cancer recurrence.
  • Low Toxicity: Unlike traditional treatments like chemotherapy, dendritic cell therapy is generally well-tolerated and has a lower risk of severe side effects.
  • Combination Potential: It can be combined with other treatments, enhancing overall efficacy by using different approaches to target cancer cells.
  • Versatility: Dendritic cell therapy has the potential to be used for various types of cancer, making it applicable to a wide range of malignancies.
  • Personalized Vaccine: It can be considered a personalized cancer vaccine, as it is designed to target the patient’s specific cancer antigens.
  • Non-Invasive Option: In some cases, it can be administered non-invasively, improving patient convenience and compliance.

It’s important to note that while dendritic cell therapy shows promise, it may not work for everyone or all types of cancer. Doctors need to assess individual cases to determine the most suitable treatment plan. Ongoing research will continue to refine and improve dendritic cell therapy’s effectiveness and application.

Active research is being done

The above method of treatment is relatively new, but has thrown open many promising opportunities. Several clinical trials are being conducted for this therapy, on the basis of which doctors are drafting therapy protocols. A patient who wants to participate in the trial has to meet the pre-determined research criteria.