The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1029: How to Mobilize the Immune System to Fight Cancer

Scientists are discovering new ways to push the immune system into action against a variety of cancers.
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How to Mobilize the Immune System to Fight Cancer

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Our immune systems are supposed to protect us from attack. Viruses, bacteria and fungi that try to invade can all trip alarm signals that awaken the body’s natural defenses.

Cancer is not an invader, however. A tumor is made of our own cells, although they are growing out of control.

Sparking the Immune System into Action Against Cancer:

So how can the immune system recognize cancer and put up protection against it? Immunologists are coming up with new treatments that can help mobilize the immune system to get cancers under control. Learn how they work, and why they might even work better than surgery, chemotherapy or radiation for certain types of cancers.

This Week’s Guests:

Sharon S. Evans, Ph.D., is a Professor of Oncology in the Department of Immunology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and former president of the national Society for Thermal Medicine. Her research focuses on the cues that drive immune responses during inflammation or cancer immunotherapy. The photo is of Dr. Evans.


David Kroll, PhD, is a pharmacologist and medical writer in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. He has taught at the University of Colorado, Duke University and North Carolina Central University. He now works on educating the public on matters pharmacological through his blogs.

Jonathan Serody, PhD, holds the Elizabeth Thomas endowed chair for medicine, microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the Associate Director for translational sciences in the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at UNC and runs the leukemia and bone marrow program in the UNC cancer hospital. His laboratory does research on T-cells, B-cells and the responses to tumor vaccines.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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The Extended Interview with Dr. Serody and Dr. Kroll:

We talked with Jonathan Serody, PhD, and David Kroll, PhD, for 50 minutes on topics such as Dr. Serody’s research into chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CAR T) and the possibilities for treating metastatic cancer.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I am curious if Dr. Serody and his research group have done or will do immunotherapy research for polycythemia vera.

I so want to know what was said but my brain cannot tolerate focusing long enough to listen for an hour. If the key points were condensed into a shorter span I’d more likely be able to glean them. I zone out if there is any straying from the subject at hand. Pleasantries and adverts shut me ears off. Too bad.
Wish there was a way to fast forward.

You can always download the podcast of any of our shows. All podcast players will offer you a fast forward option.

Are there good examples of targeting endothelial cells that assist in the nourishment of tumors, by, for example, the following processes:

1) opening up (vasodilating) endothelial cells helping to nourish cancer cells BEFORE and DURING cancer therapies?

2) immunological therapies that target endothelial cells nourishing cancer cells?

3) immunological therapies that target tumor cells directly such as by linking to tumor antigens and then “spiking” the tumor cell with a radioactive spike OR a pro-apoptotic spike that is not radioactives?

4) immunological therapies that block the anti-apoptotic signaling pathways of tumor cells?

5) immunological therapies that bind with receptors on pericytes lining the endothelium of blood vessels that nourish tumors and activate the ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) generating capabilities of THOSE pericytes?

Yes “immunotherapy” as outlined is VERY EXPENSIVE and of current dubious cost-benefit.

What if “cancer immunotherapy” included inhibition of “immune system signaling pathways” with OTC’s and relatively low cost prescription drugs (at least for cancer therapy) such as salsalate?

Just one of many VERY INTERESTING references that point out the potential:

Integr Cancer Ther. 2006 Sep;5(3):252-68.

Preadministration of high-dose salicylates, suppressors of NF-kappaB activation, may increase the chemosensitivity of many cancers: an example of proapoptotic signal modulation therapy.

McCarty MF1, Block KI.

NF-kappaB activity is elevated in a high proportion of cancers, particularly advanced cancers that have been treated previously. Cytotoxic treatment selects for such up-regulation inasmuch as NF-kappaB promotes transcription of a large number of proteins that inhibit both the intrinsic and extrinsic pathways of apoptosis; NF-kappaB also boosts expression of mdr1, which expels many drugs from cells. Indeed, high NF-kappaB activity appears to be largely responsible for the chemo- and radioresistance of many cancers.

Thus, agents that suppress NF-kappaB activity should be useful as adjuvants to cytotoxic cancer therapy. Of the compounds that are known to be NF-kappaB antagonists, the most practical for current use may be the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs aspirin, salicylic acid, and sulindac, each of which binds to and inhibits Ikappa kinase- beta, a central mediator of NF-kappa activation; the low millimolar plasma concentrations of salicylate required for effective inhibition of this kinase in vivo can be achieved with high-dose regimens traditionally used to manage rheumatic disorders.

The gastrointestinal toxicity of such regimens could be minimized by using salsalate or enteric-coated sodium salicy-late or by administering misoprostol in conjunction with aspirin therapy. Presumably, best results would be seen if these agents were administered for several days prior to a course of chemo- or radiotherapy, continuing throughout the course. This concept should first be tested in nude mice bearing xenografts of chemoresistant human tumors known to have elevated NF-kappa activity. Ultimately, more complex adjuvant regimens can be envisioned in which salicylates are used in conjunction with other NF-kappa antagonists and/or agents that target other mediators of down-regulated apoptosis in cancer, such as Stat3; coadministration of salicylate and organic selenium may have intriguing potential in this regard. These strategies may also have potential as adjuvants to metronomic chemotherapy, which seeks to suppress angio-genesis by targeting cycling endothelial cells in tumors.
PMID: 16880431

I have had four cancers, three of them right on top of each other. I can trace the first one to a period of high stress in my life and the other three to the stress of the first. This morning I read an article about astragalus and how it can increase the activity of the immune system and mobilize it against new cancer. This is relatively in expensive stuff and I am going to add it to my list of things to order the next time I get supplements.

The simple answer is to stay away from chemo type drugs and NSAID’s.

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