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Rethinking Immunity to Help Beat Cancer

June 04, 2019

By Dr. Peter Yu
Physician-in-Chief, Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute

It is frightening to receive a cancer diagnosis. But there is more hope than ever before. Through clinical trials and research, we are developing new treatments that help people live longer and better lives – and actually cure an increasing number of cancer patients.

These breakthroughs often begin with a new concept that transforms our vision.  For example, millions of bacteria are inside and on the surface of our bodies –  in fact, more bacteria than there are cells in our body. They are necessary for good health because they help us digest foods and keep harmful bacteria at bay.

Now, we have learned that they also affect the strength of our immune system, which could be important in fighting cancer.

The Jackson Laboratory, with help from Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute physicians, is investigating this further as part of $2.2-million National Institutes of Health grant – right here in Connecticut.

The research will probe the immune system’s response to lung cancer and examine the interactions between the cancer, the bacteria co-existing within the patient and the patient’s immune system.

 

This is real science that can lead to a better understanding of the role diet and nutrition plays in a healthy immune system, which, in turn, can fight off cancer and other diseases.

Connecticut is fortunate to have access to a wide range of medical research. In oncology, the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute is leading the way through partnerships with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Jackson Laboratory. The new Clinical Innovation Unit located at Hartford Hospital provides the dedicated research unit necessary to conduct the most advanced clinical studies.

Our goal is to increase the number of clinical trials and the amount of research that we do. Every approved cancer drug on the market is the product of a clinical trial, so the research we do today will usher in the next generation of treatment. Without research and clinical trials, we would not have advanced to where we are today nor be where we will be tomorrow.

To learn more about Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute clinical trials, click here.