Developments in the fight against Cancer belong for us at the most interesting news items. For example immunotherapy, a medical therapy that is aimed at the immune system. In the case of cancer immunotherapy, it is intended that the immune system is activated to clean up tumors. A treatment which strengthens and manipulated the natural defenses of the body so that cancer cells are detected, attacked and destroyed.
However, these immune cells identify not all cancer cells as intruders, because there are many different forms (mutations). When cancer cells are clearly different, they will be opposed. But that is not the case for all cancer cells. The immune cells have to be trained as it were, to learn to recognize cancer cells.
Very recently there was news that an international team of researchers believes they had found a feature that is identical in all cancer cells of a patient and thus can be detected by the immune system. Within three years, researchers hope to begin offering tailored treatments, starting with lung cancer patients.
Great! But simultaneously you also read these messages with mixed feelings. On the one hand, of course, wonderful that important progress is made in the fight against cancer. On the other hand, this developments, especially if you have a terminal cancer, never go fast enough. And if you read the announcement properly, there are still some obstacles to overcome. For example, the statement “to start within three years, researchers hope to offer tailor treatments, starting with lung cancer patients.”
This also means that this treatment will not been available to every cancer patient for a long time. Indeed, it may well be a period of 10 years before immunotherapy may be applied for GIST patients or, because that possibility also exists, perhaps not even will be useful.
And, really selfish, you think why for lung cancer patients? The reason given is that approximately 10,000 Dutch die annually from the effects of lung cancer, making it the cancer with the highest mortality. That seems an understandable, logical choice but a GIST patient reads that yet somewhat different. A large group is obviously more recognizable and as immunotherapy works that also provides many results. But when the number of patients determines the urgency with which cancer is contested, then a rare form of cancer as GIST comes off badly.
It is, I think, however, not only the size of the group that is decisive, but especially the notoriety of a certain type of cancer among physicians, scientists and researchers. And indeed, in that lung cancer patients have a decent lead. As well as many other common cancers, such pancreatic cancer, uterine cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, etc. For them survival is naturally as valuable as that for me and my peers, but as a small, rare cancer group you have to have to find another way to get better attention. To simply gain more brand awareness, and thereby the possibility that a group of doctors, scientists and researchers think, “Hey, GIST tumors, let’s focus on that.”
That’s easier said than done, but in recent months we have made progress. There is a plan the campaign developed to bring the existence of GIST under wider attention in a completely new way. And this blog plays an important role in that. These developments are going very fast now, so stay tuned!