Medicine And The Media

Milken buys immunity

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 20 January 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:190
  1. Frances Calman

    For much of this century we have known that tumours can occasionally regress spontaneously, bringing about “miracle cures.” The list of such tumours is well known to the average medical examination candidate: renal cell carcinoma, neuroblastoma in infants, malignant melanoma. It is not very long. These are the cancers which will respond to biologically active substances such as interferon and interleukin, which we use in an attempt to activate the body's defence mechanisms against the tumour. Horizon looked at immunotherapy for malignant melanoma, and asked what we can learn from those with the disease who have spontaneously improved.

    Survivors are extraordinary people, whether they have survived prisoner of war camps, advanced cancer, or any other catastrophe where, statistically speaking, they should have died. What causes them to survive when others succumb is not always clear. I prescribe tamoxifen tablets for a Turkish woman with lung, bone, and skin metastases from breast cancer and they disappear for four years. She brings me pistachio nuts when …

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