Williams Cancer Institute

The Complex Relationship Between Chemotherapy and the Immune System

The Complex Relationship Between Chemotherapy and the Immune System


In the world of cancer treatment, chemotherapy has long been known to suppress the immune system, often leading to a decrease in white blood cell counts. However, there is a nuanced relationship between chemotherapy and the immune response, rooted in the duality of the immune system: one side combats tumors, while the other protects them. By strategically weakening the protective aspect of the immune system, chemotherapy can actually enhance the overall anti-cancer immune response, even in the face of reduced white blood cell counts.

Chemotherapy can yield beneficial effects by causing immunogenic tumor cell death, triggering the release of tumor antigens and danger signals that stimulate an immune response. Additionally, cancer growth generates immune-inhibiting substances, which are diminished when chemotherapy directly suppresses cancer progression, thereby facilitating the immune system’s task. Specific chemotherapy agents are associated with immune response enhancement, a topic we will delve into further.

Choosing the right chemotherapy agents, especially those with a positive impact on the immune response, can be pivotal when undergoing chemotherapy. Additionally, exploring the synergy between chemotherapy and immunotherapy is a promising avenue, even though it may not yet be widely adopted in clinical practice. Metronomic dosing, characterized by low and frequent chemotherapy administration, has demonstrated superior potential in stimulating the immune response, despite not being the conventional approach in oncology.

In conclusion, while the ultimate goal is to minimize the use of chemotherapy, it remains a valuable tool, especially in conjunction with immunotherapy, for patients with advanced and aggressive cancers. By considering low-dose metronomic chemotherapy, individuals can effectively slow cancer growth and bolster the anti-cancer immune response, offering a more comprehensive approach to treatment.

Reference: Jason R. Williams, 15 Oct 2019, The Immunotherapy Revolution: The Best New Hope For Saving Cancer Patients’ Lives, https://williamscancerinstitute.com/the-immunotherapy-revolution

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