What Exactly Is a Cytokine and How Is It Used in Cancer Treatment?

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Cytokines are certain substances secreted by specific cells in your body’s immune system. These substances carry the signals that allow cells to communicate with each other. Cytokines may be proteins, peptides or glycoproteins and can interact with your immune system in both positive and negative ways.

What Cytokines Do

Cytokines may act to either enhance or suppress your immune system. Their impact on cell function may be felt locally or at a distance in another part of your body. Despite such functional differences, all cytokines share in the direction of your body’s immune response.

It is that ability to impact the functioning of your immune system that makes cytokines such an important factor in cancer treatment. By manipulating cytokines, integrative immunotherapy seeks to modify the dialog between cells. By changing the way cells interact, the goal of integrative immunotherapy is to remove impediments to a healthy immune system and amplify the body’s immune system response.

Using Cytokines in Cancer Treatment

Certain cancer drugs and cancer vaccines have been found to have a noticeable impact on cytokine production. Using vaccines to increase the presence of specific biologic response modifiers such as Interleukin-2 — which the body creates naturally but only in small amounts — floods the body with cancer fighting T-cells and Natural Killer Cells. This sudden influx of immune system-supporting cytokines significantly enhances your immune system’s response, giving it extra power to fight off cancer cells.

Over 60 years of clinical experience, Issels Integrative Oncology has found similar cancer-fighting benefits in other cytokines such as Interleukin-4, which promotes the generation of dendritic cells, and Interleukin-21, which enhances Natural Killer Cell activity. Visit our website for more information.