Dendritic therapy or Immunotherapy has given cancer patients hope that they can beat this dreaded disease.

When we talk of health problems in India, heart disease, diabetes and AIDS are mentioned as the biggest issues. But cancer is also a big problem. It is one of the seven leading causes of death in India. An estimate shows that the total cancer burden in India will increase from 800,000 new cases a year to 14,00,000 by 2026.

New treatment option

Nevertheless cancer is not hopeless anymore. Advances in technology have enabled medical science to help a person with cancer. Till now the widely accepted treatment options were chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Apart from these, cancer can also be treated by hormone therapy and immunotherapy. This new form of cancer treatment is still being researched. Immunotherapy, also known as biological therapy, uses our body'simmune system. It can help fight cancer or help control side effects from other treatments like chemotherapy. In cancer, our immune system fails to fight the malignant cells because it cannot differentiate the malignant from normal cells. Immunotherapy is crafted to repair, stimulate or enhance our immune system's responses to foreign cells.

What it does

Immunotherapy, based on dendritic cells or dendritic cell therapy, plays a pivotal role in the initiation and regulation of the immune system. Dendritic cell is a blood cell present in the blood stream. It directs the immune system, and is capable of inducing tumour antigen-specific T and B cell responses. They recognise the cancer cells, engulf one of them, and then process them to represent them as antigens on their cell surface to jumpstart the immune system. The activated immune system is then able to circulate throughout the body to destroy cancer cells.

Dendritic Cell therapy is used to treat all types of solid tumours. Research shows that supportive immune system substances can now be produced in the laboratory, which is being used successfully in cancer treatment.

Immunotherapy or Dendritic therapy has given hope to many cancer patients and their families. There are number of success stories that motivate every cancer sufferer that life doesn't end here.

Benefits

Relieves pain and suffering

Rejuvenates their immune response

Delays disease progression and improves survival

Helps alleviate the adverse effects of chemotherapy

Prevents relapse or recurrence of cancer after surgery, chemo/radiation

The writer is a senior oncologist based in New Delhi.