What is immunotherapy and does it work?

Immunotherapy treatments are having their moment in the spotlight thanks to high-profile success stories and an influx of new cash and innovations in research. Former President Jimmy Carter announced that he was cancer-free just seven months after telling the world that his advanced-stage melanoma had spread to his brain. His remission is, at least in part, the result of immunotherapy treatments. And tech billionaire Sean Parker recently pledged $250 million toward cancer research programs involving promising immunotherapy treatments.

But what exactly is immunotherapy and how does it work? We’ve broken it down for you with this primer.

What is immunotherapy?

It helps to start with a basic understanding on how the immune system works. When a foreign body — such as a germ or an allergen or a cancer cell — is detected in the body, the immune system responds by sending cells to attack and neutralize the intruder. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. But some cancer cells are able to turn off those cancer-fighting cells, and this is what allows them to multiply unchecked. Unlike traditional medications that block or circumvent the immune system, immunotherapy stimulates a person’s immune system to help it fight diseases.

Some immunotherapy treatments use what’s called checkpoint inhibitors to block the mechanism that cancer cells use to fly below the radar, reports the American Cancer Society. This lets the immune system do its job of destroying those cells. Another type of immunotherapy called cell therapy involves removing the immune system cells from the patient and genetically altering them to seek out and destroy cancer cells before injecting them back into the patient. In still another type of treatment, cancer patients are injected with proteins that attach to both cancer cells and the immune system’s disease-fighting T-cells. This forces the T-cells into the fight and spurs them to destroy the cancer cells.

What types of diseases are treated with immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy has been successful in helping to minimize the symptoms felt by allergy sufferers. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergy shots — or subcutaneous immunotherapy — are the “only treatment that changes the immune system and prevents new allergies and asthma from developing.”

There is also promising new research in using immunotherapy to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

But by far, the biggest advances in immunotherapy research have come in the form of its potential use to treat cancers such as melanoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, lymphoma, and lung, kidney and bladder cancers.

Does it work?

With researchers constantly performing new studies, the statistics are evolving when it comes to immunotherapy effectiveness. According to this recent New York Times article, 20 to 40 percent of cancer patients have benefited from checkpoint inhibitors while 25 to 90 percent of blood cancer patients have seen improvements from cell therapy depending upon the type of cancer treated. Some of these patients have had remissions that lasted for years; others had relapses within a few months.

Some of the highest success rates have been in patients treated with both the old and the new types of treatment. Combinations of radiation and immunotherapy — such as the treatments Carter used to beat back melanoma — or chemotherapy and immunology have researchers excited about the possibility of a true cure.

What is the future of immunotherapy?

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced an initiative called Cancer MoonShot 2020, which is billed as a four-year race to subdue cancer by the start of the next decade with the “ultimate goal of vaccine-based immunotherapy tailored to the unique tumor signature of individual patients.”

Immunotherapy is the cornerstone of the Cancer Moonshot research. Health experts hope that by using these tools to rethink cancer, we can better learn how to help our own bodies tackle the disease.

Source: Jenn Savedge

First step to a healthy life is to love yourself

Yoga is a way to self love, a way to inner peace, a way of LIFE…

Yoga is a blend of a healthy mind, body and soul. Body, mind and spirit are like a tripod – therefore misbalance in any one of these can affect our health immensely.Yoga is an integral part of our lifestyle. It removes the impurities from the level of mind and unites everything with the spirit. Yoga is a form of mind-body fitness that involves a blend of muscular activity and an internally bound mindful focus on consciousness of the self, the breath, and energy. Yoga combines of the key factors such as physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.

Yoga in its extended form includes physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and a distinct philosophy. Also adding more to this the benefits of yoga are felt in a profound yet delicate manner. There are numerous health benefits as far as yoga is concerned:

Over-all fitness: All round fitness of one’s body does not always mean to be physically strong but to achieve tranquility of mind at the same time. As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar puts it, “Health is not a mere absence of disease. It is a dynamic expression of life – in terms of how joyful, loving and enthusiastic you are.”

 Stress reduction and inner peace: Spending a little time on yoga out of one’s busy schedule can really soothen our nerves and relax our mind and body. To combat stress, many people choose to meditate. But stress also creates physical rejoinder in the body and, as such, can be managed with yoga. Yoga also plays an important role in de-toxing the body and de-stressing the mind by doing pranayama. Coming to inner peace Yoga has the ability to increase relaxation and induce a balanced mental state in our body.

Improved flexibility and immunity: We only need to incorporate yoga in your everyday routine to benefit from a body that is sturdy, and lithe. Regular yoga practice stretches and tones the body muscles and also makes them tough. It also helps perk up your body posture when you stand, sit, sleep or walk. This would, in turn, help relieve your body pain as well. Yoga poses massage organs and strengthens muscles; breathing techniques. At the same time meditation release stress and improve immunity.

Weight loss: Yoga is an effective way to reduce weight as well. Yoga can overpower dieting and gyming in order to lose weight. Kapal Bhati pranayama are some ways to help lose weight. It also helps us in keeping a check on our diet because we become conscious of what we eat and at what intervals.

Management of chronic conditions: Yoga can help diminish risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga might also help assuage chronic illness, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia many a times.

Yoga is considered a mind-body type of harmonizing and substitute medicine practice. Though modern medicine has the ability in many cases to heal physical diseases and ease psychological muddle, it is said that a purely medical approach is far less efficient in curing the emotional, intellectual, and personality zones of the human entity. There exists an indubitable relation between a person’s overall physical and mental health and the inner peace and well-being yoga is intended to attain.