Cancer sucks. It comes in many forms, turns a body against itself, and our current treatment methods (namely chemo and radiation therapy) consist of trying to poison all the cells in the area of the cancer: too much poison and you internal systems can’t function, too little and the cancer doesn’t die. It’s a loose loose situation. One of the reasons we have to treat cancer so differently than other health problems, like disease and infection, is that our healthy cells have a very hard time fighting the cancer cells. This is mainly due to the fact that cancer evolves so quickly and in so many different ways. By the time our white blood cells identify what a cancerous tumor ‘looks like’ there are already numerous other parts of the tumor that ‘look’ completely different. Our immune system just can’t keep up. But what if there were a way for our own cells to identify and fight every part of a tumor, no matter how much it evolved?
Enter Professor Charlie Swanton and Dr. Sergio Quezada from the Francis Crick Institute and University College London respectively. They and their team previously discovered a method of identifying early faults in a tumor’s DNA that they thought would persist to later stages of that tumor. They have finally proven that this occurs in tumors and discovered “immune cells inside tumors that can recognize these early shared features” (Groundbreaking Immunotherapy Discovery Could Lead To New Cancer Treatments). The researchers hope to artificially multiply more of these cells and inject them back into the patient’s body. In theory, these cells would then be able to identify and destroy the entire tumor.
This is an extremely significant discovery and, even though there are various practical limitations at the moment, could lead the way to revolutionizing how we treat cancer. Instead of poisoning your body, this method would essentially just provide reinforcements of more of your own cells to combat the cancer.
The article itself was written in iflscience by Kristy Hamilton. It is a news story intended to present the findings of a research paper to the general population (or at least the gen. pop. that’s interested in science). Hamilton uses common language to explain the very complex biological processes at work but the writing is never dumbed down. She uses a lot of analogies to better explain herself, such as comparing the various evolutionary branches of the cancer cells to a tree with many different branches sprouting off.
I believe the article is very legitimate. It comes from a reputable source for science related news, and the article quotes the original researchers multiple times.