YouDocs: Fighting cancer with immune system T-cells


Q: I've heard that there are individualized cancer treatments that may make chemo obsolete. How do they work? -- Kathleen C., Lexington, Kentucky

A: The latest breakthrough in creating individualized cancer treatment involves using your body's own immune system T-cells to wipe out cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue in your body.

Cancer takes hold when fast-multiplying cancer cells KO your body's natural defenses, including your T-cells. Chemotherapy targets those fast-multiplying cells, but can damage healthy cells, too. This new kind of immunotherapy works by reawakening T-cells' anti-tumor immune memory, so they can do their job again and attack your cancer.

So far, there's promising results in trials that use this kind of immunotherapy against advanced or high-risk melanoma, as well as lung, kidney, cervical and even triple-negative breast cancer. One monoclonal antibody, ipilimumab, has been approved for T-cell immunotherapy against metastatic melanoma. These new approaches can be used by themselves or with traditional chemo, surgery and/or other immunotherapies.

With kidney cancer, doctors may choose cryo-reductive or conventional surgery first, and then use one or more forms of immunotherapy. With breast cancer, a combo of chemo/immune-boosting treatment may get the best results. Eventually, researchers think, the most effective treatments will unleash the immune system's ability to kill cancer cells by targeting several of their defenses at once. That's good news for more than 1.6 million North Americans diagnosed with cancer annually. But even better news ... half of all cancers may be preventable -- by YOU.

You can slash your cancer risk by dumping those Five Food Felons: added sugar and syrup, saturated and trans fats and any grain that isn't 100 percent whole. It's believed that a nutritionally poor diet, obesity and metabolic syndrome may be linked to 30 percent to 35 percent of cancer deaths! Also, get vaccinated against the HP virus; don't eat red or processed meats; limit your alcohol intake; eliminate your exposure to smoke (especially from tobacco and marijuana), thermal receipts and pesticides.

Q: I use a water filter on my kitchen sink faucet, but I hear an under-the-sink reverse osmosis filter is much better. Do I really need to invest in one? And how safe is bottled water? -- Dave L. Cleveland

A: You've asked a lot of questions! First, faucet, pitcher and refrigerator filters (usually carbon filters) are great at capturing heavy metals, chemicals and some bacteria. But Gary Ginsburg (he's on our radio show) says reverse osmosis filters have the best available technology for removing uranium and radium (up to 99 percent), as well as contaminants such as arsenic, nitrate and microscopic parasites like Cryptosporidium, which causes diarrhea.

But before you upgrade your filtration system, find out what kinds of contaminants are generally found in your municipal water supply.

You can test on your own (kits can test for pH, total chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, iron, copper, nitrites and iron bacteria) or send samples to a lab.

As for bottled water: The Environmental Protection Agency's bottled water standards are the same as for tap water and cover chemical, microbial and radiological contaminants. Bottled water plants must operate in accordance with the Food and Drug Administration's good manufacturing practices.

(Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at

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