Immunotherapy to Treat Cancer, Alternative Treatment Options


A new alternative to treat cancer is yielding positive results throughout the world; It is a treatment consisting of stimulating the immune system so that it fights cancer cells in the body.

Specifically, in Mexico, the success story of Isolde was recently known, a woman whose six tumors had been detected in different parts of the body and the presence of the most aggressive skin cancer: melanoma, in its terminal stage.

The diagnosis was decisive: no more than three months of life. “The tumors that I had in my body were not even operable. Neither chemotherapy nor radiation could be an option because they are palliative because the melanoma is very aggressive and does not react. There was practically nothing left to do, ”said this woman in an interview with Televisa News. But doctors from the National Cancer Institute decided to try a new alternative still under investigation, immunotherapy.

This strategy against cancer was developed by the American James P. Allison and the Japanese Tasuku Honjo, who, for their research and results about proteins that acted as a brake on the immune system and how to release it, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 2018.

Although greater effectiveness has been observed when combining immunotherapy with some of the traditional treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, this option has resulted in a revelation that implies less toxicity to the body and is effective in difficult-to-treat cancers, such as those housed in the lungs and liver.

Immunotherapy allows the immune system to fight against the tumors developed by the body, avoiding attacking healthy cells, which does not happen with treatments such as chemotherapy. Allison discovered that a known protein acts as a brake for T lymphocytes to be activated to protect cells; Honjo, in turn, found the action of another protein on T lymphocytes, with a different mechanism and how to block it to enhance the body’s response to fight cancer.

Today, two years away from the start of her treatment, which is administered intravenously – she received a total of 35 injections in this period – Isolde has achieved total cancer remission, “the tumors were dissolving, disappearing” says the patient.

Access to this treatment can cost up to 10 thousand usd per month, so some patients go to medical centers with active research about the treatment, in order to be able to undergo it without cost and, at the same time, be collaborators in the studies and investigations that are still carried out to know more about its effectiveness.