Monday, March 4, 2013

Unlocking the Mysteries of Cancer

Reposted from Life Extension

By Dayna Dye
Twenty years ago, Steven A. Rosenberg wrote a book entitled The Transformed Cell: Unlocking the Mysteries of Cancer. Although the book was never a bestseller, the subject matter was destined to change the face of cancer treatment and the way we think about the disease.

The book presented what was previously a revolutionary idea: that the body's immune system was capable of curing the scourge of the ages known as cancer.

A Man’s Cancer Disappears

The first chapter of the book begins with the story of a patient encountered in the emergency department of the West Roxbury, Massachusetts Veterans’ Hospital in 1968. This patient would define the direction of Dr. Rosenberg’s career.

The patient, James DeAngelo, presented with abdominal pain and had a history of aggressive stomach cancer twelve years earlier. At the time of his cancer diagnosis, the disease had spread to the liver, and only the main tumor and part of his stomach had been surgically removed. Mr. DeAngelo, essentially, had been sent home to die.

Twelve years after his first encounter with Dr. Rosenberg, he showed no signs of cancer. A thorough exploration of his abdominal cavity during gallbladder surgery confirmed the absence of tumors on his liver or anywhere else in the abdomen. What happened?

An Innate Cancer Fighting System

The pathology report from the original cancer surgery contained a clue concerning what might have destroyed the metastases. The pathologist remarked that the area around the primary tumor was densely infiltrated with white blood cells known as lymphocytes and eosinophils.

"Mr. DeAngelo had received no treatment," Rosenberg wrote. "His own body had cured his cancer. It was likely that his immune system, which defends the body naturally against disease, had reacted to the cancer and destroyed it."

The remainder of the book chronicles Rosenberg's quest to harness the immune system's ability to fight a disease that at that point in time had much less in the way of effective treatment than is available today.

A Transformed Cell

The book defines transformed as "changed in form or function” usually by the modification or insertion of genetic material — such as the conversion of a normal cell to a cancer cell. Dr. Rosenberg’s idea is that if a cell “transforms” into something different, like a cancer cell, our own immune system should be able to recognize it and destroy the diseased cell.

So, are there things we can do to ramp-up our immune response to cancer cells? The answer is an enthusiastic yes.

Dr. Rosenberg’s theories opened the minds of the world's medical establishment that did not believe that our own immune system could hold the keys to unlocking an effective cancer therapy. While many immune therapies for cancer are still in their early stages of testing and use, research in this area is looking promising for many types of cancer.

Life Extension’s Immunotherapy Protocols

We have published information on cancer vaccines and immunotherapy based on some of the original ideas and research coming from Dr. Rosenberg’s theories. Our protocols provide a good summary of the concepts and current therapies available.

Although surgery, chemotherapy and radiation can be said to have saved the lives of millions of people, cancer still kills millions more each year. A new approach is obviously needed.

Immunotherapy could be the cancer therapy of the future and understanding the immune system may also enable us to understand how to prevent cancer from occurring in the first place.

"When we started we were looking for the slightest crack in the disease, a crack we could wedge open," Rosenberg wrote in The Transformed Cell's epilogue. "Science works this way; one probes nature, finds an opening in it, and hopes the opening leads somewhere." "Now we have found new cracks, new weaknesses in the sheer and bleak stone face of cancer. We have wedged these cracks open. Now we are trying to widen them. And the hope, of course, is to burst through them." – Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg.

Are you a cancer survivor? Tell us your story in the comments to help inspire others.