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Spontaneous Remission And Regression In Cancer Patients

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Spontaneous Remission and Regression in Cancer Patients:

What a Mystery!

I. What is Cancer?

Cancer is a disease produced by the invasion or implantation of uncontrolled cell

division in almost any organ or part of the body. As cancerous cells divide and multiply,

they invade the host cells transforming them in abnormal cells due to the damage

produced to their DNA. This process of cell mutation may be slow or fast and, once

mutated, such malignant cells may implant themselves in other parts of the body as they

easily travel in the blood stream and the lymphatic system. Metastasis tends to follow

particular trends depending on the origin of the carcinogenesis.

Diagnosing cancer requires a histological examination of tissue obtained by a biopsy or

surgery and is analyzed by a pathologist. Although there is no cure for cancers, some

treatments are currently used including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery. As

more knowledge is obtained of the complex processes of the cell division and mutation

and their relation with the host cells, cancer treatments and drugs more specific to the

type of cancer are being developed. There are a number of mechanisms that are triggered

within the normal cells and other body dynamics that have decreased temporarily and

even eradicated the damaged cells. This process is called Spontaneous remission and

regression. This paper explains some of those mechanisms.

II. What is Spontaneous Remission and Regression?

A distinction must be made between Spontaneous Remission (SR) and

Spontaneous Regression (SR). SR refers to the reversal of the disease process that tends

to be more systemic, such as leukemia and lymphomas. SR refers to the reduction and

even full disappearance of solid tumors or neoplasms. The use of the terminologies

applies to realities in which the patient undergoes no Western allopathic medical

treatment or “as a result of a therapy considered inadequate to influence systemic

neoplastic disease.” Both remission and regression has been observed to be temporary

or permanent in the clinical studies. Remission and regression tend to be used

interchangeably. It appears that most studies follow the SR definition by Everson and

Cole which specifies the aforementioned characteristics.

The most often cited occurrences of SR in the every growing medical journalism

point to few of the many types of carcinomas. They include: renal cell cancer, malignant

melanoma, low-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia

(CLL) and neuroblastoma in children.

III. Causes of Spontaneous Remission: Mechanisms

The National Cancer Institute (in the 1970’s) proposed that it was likely

immunological factors that provided the primary mechanism for remission. Since then

others factors have been identified including immune mediation, hormonal factors,

inhibition of tumor growth by growth factors and/or cytokines, differentiation of the

tumor into a more “normal” type of tissue, elimination of carcinogens, angiogenesis,

tumor necrosis, programmed cell death (apoptosis) and genetic factors. Only few of

these mechanisms are studied here.

1. Apoptotic Mechanism

One exciting mechanism that results in SR is that of apoptosis. Our body is a

conglomeration of multiple cells of particular types that form the different parts of our

body: organs, tissue, bone, etc. Normal cells continually develop and die within the

group or type to which they belong. Abnormal cells can develop within the normal cells

leading to malignancies. Apoptosis is presented as a programmed cell death orchestrated

by a series of biochemical events. Cell death by apoptosis is a process by which bodies

of cell(s) give up their life and are disposed of in a way that would not harm the

organism. In the event of cancerous cells, the body may follow an intrinsic biological

path that would make those malignant cells to die. In the event of cancerous mass, no

matter what the size of it is, the tumor could decrease even to the point of total

disappearance in the apoptotic process.

Authors point at cases where the mechanism of apoptotic cell death, intrinsic to

the organism, apparently could be more beneficial in some carcinogens than the repeated

processes

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