Doctors come clean: These cancer drugs may cause fatal heart damage
Doctors are now coming clean about a class of cancer drugs that can cause fatal heart damage. These cancer fighting drugs are different than immune system suppressants such as chemotherapy. These immune therapy drugs are designed to mobilize and engage the immune system, however, in rare cases, the drugs may cause the immune system to attack other organs such as the heart muscles. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine unveiled what can happen after a patient takes their first dose of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s cancer drugs Opdivo and Yervoy.
Immunotherapy cancer drugs can overstimulate the immune system, causing fatal autoimmune-like problems
Two patients who were treated for skin cancer each took their first dose of Opdivo and Yervoy and died of heart failure two weeks later. Dr. Javid Moslehi, head of a Vanderbilt University clinic specialising in heart risks from cancer treatments, said, “My sense is that this is a class effect, not limited to one drug.”
The drugs are called checkpoint inhibitors, and other examples of include Genentech’s Tecentriq, which is used for bladder cancer, and Merck & Co.’s Keytruda, used to treat melanoma.
These drugs assist the immune system to recognize and aggressively attack tumors. In some cases, though, the immune system attacks the tumor as well as the heart muscles. This autoimmune-like reaction causes troublesome inflammation and heart rhythm abnormalities. If doctors or patients are quick to notice the inflammation, other drugs can be used to quell the overstimulated immune response. However, sometimes the damage is too severe to reverse, which results in fatal heart damage.
In fact, by April 2016, 18 cases of serious heart inflammation had been recorded among 20,594 patients receiving such treatment. The heart damage was more common when a combination of the drugs was used. The drug companies claim these drugs are more effective when used together, but doctors report that this is a “double-edged sword.” When used in combination, the drugs overstimulate the immune system and cause it to attack the body’s own heart.
Several doctors believe that the benefits of these drugs still outweigh the risks, and that the autoimmune reaction can be managed with other drugs.
Real immune system therapy should be an individualized approach addressing lifestyle toxicity and nutrient deficiency
Immune therapy that relies on synthetic stimulation of the immune system will inevitably come with its own set of autoimmune-like problems. The best way to engage the immune system is to eliminate the toxic burden that is holding the body back, and to empower the organ systems and glands with the natural molecules that the body is designed to respond to. If doctors and patients can better explore the individual’s unique lifestyle of toxicity and nutrient deficiency, then a more individualized approach can be adopted to strengthen the patient’s immune system.
This holistic strategy would focus on the patient’s digestive system and optimization of their detoxifying organs, including kidneys, liver and lymph system. This approach would fuel the patient’s body with antioxidants, minerals, prebiotics, amino acids and vitamins in a way that maximizes their utilization in the body.
In theory, immune therapy drugs are a better technique than immune-suppressant drugs such as chemotherapy, but these immune system stimulants are not a lifestyle solution for our bodies. Our immune systems keep cancer at bay on a regular basis. We are all cancer survivors! We must maintain our immune system via the information we feed our cells.
by L.J. Devon
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