Most people understand that a pink ribbon symbolizes breast cancer awareness. But did you know that it was the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure logo, which depicted an abstract female runner outlined with a pink ribbon, that introduced this now-famous symbol to the world in the mid-1980s?
Recent developments in breast cancer research suggest that women worldwide will be throwing their pink ribbons away – not because they spurn the idea of breast cancer awareness, but because the entire notion may become obsolete.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for women in the United States, after lung cancer.
A “Facts & Figures 2017-2018” report from the American Cancer Society gives these sobering facts:
“In 2017, an estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women and 2,470 cases will be diagnosed in men…Approximately 40,610 women and 460 men are expected to die from breast cancer in 2017.”
That’s a quarter million American women and men we’re talking about here.
Medical science is now figuring out that the human body’s immune system is the underlying control mechanism for a whole slew of diseases and disorders, including cancers. There is an exciting and promising new branch of melanoma treatment called immunotherapy that may hold the key to wiping out breast cancer.
An article published earlier this month (June 2018) by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) revealed that an NCI Center for Cancer Research (CCR) study, led by Chief of the Surgery Branch Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., has cured a patient’s breast cancer for 22 months!
The novel experimental approach taken by the CCR identifies “mutations present in cancer that are recognized by the immune system,” according to Dr. Rosenberg. Furthermore, “because this new approach to immunotherapy is dependent on mutations, not on cancer type, it is in a sense a blueprint we can use for the treatment of many types of cancer.”
How does this new immunotherapy work? Based on a form of adoptive cell transfer (ACT) that “uses tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) that specifically target tumor cell mutations to see if they can shrink tumors in patients with these common epithelial cancers.”
(Epithelial cells comprise one of the four types of animal tissue, along with connective tissue, muscle tissue, and nervous tissue.)
Identified TIL cells are reproduced in a laboratory by the billions, then infused back into the patient to “create a stronger immune response against the tumor.” The selected TILs can detect, attack, and kill the cancer cells.
A woman with metastatic breast cancer received the CCR immunotherapy treatment after other treatments, including chemotherapy and hormones, failed to help. Genetic testing revealed an astonishing 62 different mutations in her tumor cells.
The study reported that “TILs recognized four of the mutant proteins.” These were enough to wipe out the terminal patient’s cancer completely. It has not come back after more than 22 months – almost two years.
This excellent Facebook video includes some great graphics on breast cancer and outlines the new immunotherapy treatment. Check it out – and kiss your pink ribbons goodbye?