Published on April 14, 2016

It’s What Is On The Inside That Counts

Medical science is always on the lookout for ways to treat and beat cancer. As it turns out, one of our newest and most promising tools in this fight isn’t inside a lab or an exotic plant in a steamy tropical jungle. It is inside of every one of us, doing its job while you are reading this sentence.

Serve & Protect

Inside your body, your immune system works to keep you safe from microscopic invaders. Immune cells patrol your body non-stop, attacking viruses, bacteria and other invaders that shouldn’t be there.

As it turns out, the immune system doesn’t just defend against outside invaders. It also polices the cells of the body. Each of us would be riddled with cancer at a young age if our immune system could not recognize precancerous cells and destroy them. While this stops most pre-cancers, it doesn’t stop them all, since tumors can survive by “hiding” from our immune cells.

That is where immunotherapy comes in. It helps the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

Seek & Destroy

Immunotherapy is not new. Oncologists have used it for years on diseases like melanoma and kidney cancer. What has changed is our understanding of the body’s immune system. The more we learn about the interaction between the immune system and cancer, the better we can teach immune cells to seek and destroy cancer cells.

Newer immunotherapy drugs are producing exciting and very promising results for nearly every cancer type. The main role right now is treating metastatic cancer, which has left the place where it started and traveled to other organs or body areas. Traditionally, we have thought of metastatic cancer as treatable, but not curable, with typically short survival times after diagnosis. We have seen gains in both survival and quality of life in many cancer types, especially after other types of treatment have failed. We are also researching immunotherapy’s use to prevent the return of cancer after a tumor has been removed.

Cooperation Is Key

The immune system doesn’t use just one type of cell. Several different types, each with a different purpose, work together to get the job done.

That’s the same approach that we use to treating cancer in modern medicine. Oncologists, including myself, work closely with surgeons, radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, plastic and reconstructive specialists, primary care providers and many more.

Immunotherapy will not replace the need for surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Each of these treatment types plays a very important role, and immunotherapy may be a helpful addition to these tried-and-true approaches.

Advanced Care, Close To Home

All of the oncologists at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center routinely use the latest immunotherapies as soon as clinical evidence shows a benefit in a particular cancer. There are many complicated factors that go into deciding treatment. Cancer type, stage, prior health history, lifestyle and more play a role in developing a treatment plan. Every patient is different, so our treatment approach has to be, too.

For those who are eligible for immune-directed treatment, with a cancer where the benefit is proven, we can offer this option. We are practicing oncology at the forefront of innovation and utilizing all tools that are available to give patients the best outcomes and quality of life possible. We are going to help you and your loved ones fight cancer, and we’re going to do everything in our power to help you win that battle.

Dr. Jacob Hodskins is a Daviess County native who is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He practices hematology and oncology with Owensboro Health Medical Group.

This article originally appeared in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital; Owensboro Health Twin Lakes Medical Center; the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 350 providers at more than 30 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have more than 19,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 33,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 150 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 90,000 Emergency Department visits and more than 1.25 million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.