Topic: Immunotherapy for Cancer (from Smithsonian online article)

Take that, cancer!: The War on Cancer has been going on a long time, with its share of false hopes, but a growing number of experts suggest that the fight may have turned a corner with a treatment known as cancer immunotherapy. Last month, for instance, Science magazine named it the "Breakthrough of the Year."

So what exactly is cancer immunotherapy? Put simply, it is using drugs that spur the body's immune system to battle tumor cells directly. The reason this doesn't happen naturally, as researchers discovered a few years ago, is that tumor cells are able to wrap themselves in a protective shield. But new drugs are being tested that have been able to empower the immune system to break through that protection and allow the body to do its job in fighting cancer cells on its own. The number of cases where immunotherapy has been tested is still relatively small, but the results have been encouraging. And, as Jennifer Couzin-Frankel wrote in Science, "Immunotherapy marks an entirely different way of treating cancer—by targeting the immune system, not the tumor itself."



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