A cure to cancer is likely... maybe even inevitable... in our lifetime...
Cancer deaths are down in the U.S., according to recent data from the American Cancer Society... and have been trending downward for the last two decades.
From 1991 to 2012, the cancer death rate fell 23%.
The past decade also saw fewer new cases of cancer. For men, the number of new cancer cases dropped by 1.8%. But for women, the diagnosis rate stayed the same. This year, about 455 people in 100,000 will receive a cancer diagnosis...
The researchers attributed the overall decrease to better screening. That includes increased colon cancer screening and decreased use of the prostate antigen test (PSA).
But we can't ignore the new cancer treatment that made so many headlines last year. It's extending the lives of people with supposedly "incurable" cancers... even wiping out cancers completely.
I call it the "Living Cure."
Longtime Retirement Millionaire subscribers will remember my report on this lifesaving treatment. It's something called immunotherapy. It works by training your immune system to fight cancer on its own.
Immunotherapy goes back a long way...
In 1891, a doctor named William Coley met Fred Stein, a man with a fast-growing tumor in his neck. Four surgeries hadn't gotten rid of the cancer. But Stein developed a bacterial infection on his face and had to fight it off (this was pre-antibiotics). Not only did his body fight off the infection, but it fought off the cancer too.
Dr. Coley pursued this idea of treating cancer with live bacteria for years afterward. He'd draw samples from infectious abscesses and inject them into patients, trying to spark an immune response.
Coley claimed to have had several successes, but the results weren't as consistent as the competing approach at the time – radiation. In the ensuing battle to beat the disease, radiation won out as the preferred treatment for more than a century.
Cancer is an extremely complex disease. We've learned an amazing number of details about it since Coley's time: how it starts, how it grows, the differences between the varieties, how the genes in cancer cells work, and more.
Without that information, Coley couldn't figure out why the immune system beat a few cancers, but not others. If he could have applied today's knowledge, he may have convinced others to work on his idea of using the immune system to beat cancer.
Because now... it appears to work.
The immunotherapy idea came back to life in the late 70s with the work of Dr. Jim Allison. He developed a drug called ipilimumab. The idea was to get a type of white blood cell, "T-cells," to attack tumors.
T-cells are responsible for hunting down and attacking foreign cells like bacteria or other diseases. Of course, cancer cells aren't foreign cells. They are cells in your own body that go haywire and reproduce rapidly and out of control. So T-cells don't attack cancer cells as they do foreign invaders. They sit back and let the cancer grow.
To get T-cells to fight cancer cells, Allison eventually focused on a protein on the outside of T-cells called CTLA-4. He found that by blocking this protein, the T-cells attacked tumors.
After a long process, he turned his CTLA-4 blocker into a drug called ipilimumab.
In 2011, ipilimumab received approval from the FDA to treat patients in the late stages of the skin cancer melanoma.
Ipilimumab has amazing effects on melanoma patients. More than 20% of the patients receiving the drug end up surviving long term... a vast improvement for the kind of cancer it treats. In some patients, the cancer completely disappears.
Ipilimumab was just the first. Now there are dozens of new immunotherapy drugs in development.
And these drugs will get even more popular now...
Earlier this year, President Obama announced a plan for something called the "Cancer MoonShot." The idea is to have pharma companies, oncologists, insurance providers, and research scientists test specific treatment combinations on cancer patients.
At the heart of this is immunotherapy treatments. If the moonshot succeeds, by 2020 we'll be able to tailor specific immunotherapies to individual patients. That will go a long way in beating cancer.
This is an exciting new field of cancer research. It's vital you know about these drugs and how they work if you ever receive a cancer diagnosis. I think it's so important, I wrote a book covering exactly how immunotherapies work. It's called The Living Cure.
I also discuss where to find the best cancer centers, how to get into a clinical trial, and the 10 questions you must ask your cancer doctor.
The Living Cure is a great resource for anyone with cancer or who knows someone with cancer. Order your copy today, right here.
And if you're already a Retirement Millionaire subscriber, you can read the report for free right here.
What We're Reading...
- After a century... progress. An immunotherapy success story.
- Something different: Adorable prairie dogs turn out to be cold-blooded killers.