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Combination Immunotherapy:  Is It For You?

Exactly what treatment is offered?  Is this chemotherapy?

The cancer treatment we offer for most of our patients is distinctly different from chemotherapy and is free of its typical side effects and frequent damage to the body.  It is a combination immunotherapy technique.  You may have noticed that this is where the most exciting cancer research is now turning, and we were twelve to fifteen years ahead of most of the cancer community in that respect.  The heart of our technique is a new "off-label" combination of two FDA-approved prescription medicines which in many cases work together to fight cancer, both directly and by enhancing the activity of the body’s own immune system.  Treatment is customized for each patient's diagnosis and medical situation, and one or more other medicines may be prescribed as well.  It is an outpatient treatment, so we educate our patients on exactly how to administer the medicines at home.  We stay in very close contact to monitor our patients’ progress and well-being.  "Off-label" means that FDA-approved medicines are being used in a capacity or application other than their primary marketed use, and that the novel combination itself has not been evaluated by the FDA.  This is very frequently the case in cancer treatment as physicians search for more effective therapies, and it is often the source of promising new treatments which may then be subjected to formal clinical trials.

Is this an alternative medicine program?

We don’t tend to think of our treatment as an alternative medicine program as that term is typically used, because we use only FDA-approved medicines and conduct our practice and patient care to the exacting standards which sound medical practice demands and which every patient deserves.  However, the medicines we prescribe do happen to be derived from natural sources.  One of them was originally discovered as the product of a fungus (much like the first antibiotic, penicillin) and the other is a protein which the human body makes in its immune system.


Why should I consider the cancer treatment program at NeoPlas Innovation?

This treatment program should be considered by patients who are not achieving satisfactory control of their cancer with approved first-line therapy and patients who have been diagnosed with cancers which are known to routinely progress despite the best currently available regimens.  While we can never offer promises or guarantees that our treatment will help you, selected patients may have a better chance of long-term survival with our treatment program rather than using chemotherapy and/or radiation, and in some cases by combining this with the typical regimens in a very precisely modified way.  You need to take a realistic look at what "standard" therapy can offer in your situation.  Does it have any chance of actually reducing your tumor or at least fully stopping its growth?  What will your life be like while you're on that treatment?  If you've already used chemotherapy and your cancer has persisted or returned, it may be time to realistically re-evaluate every option open to you.  We strongly encourage potential patients to investigate every possible option including formal clinical trials and to consider our treatment program only if appropriate.

Would I be eligible for this treatment?

This cancer treatment method, like every other cancer treatment, is not for everyone.  We believe in strict adherence to the highest standards of medicine and ethics.  Part of that is helping you determine if there is another course of treatment you should be choosing instead.  If there is a treatment known to be effective for your diagnosis and stage, we will strongly encourage you to pursue it.  We also insist that every patient under care at NeoPlas Innovation continue an active doctor-patient relationship with their local physicians, definitely for primary care and possibly oncology too.  Not only do we wish to keep your other physicians informed of your progress, but there are instances when it may be in your best interest to receive two kinds of therapy simultaneously.

In general, our treatment may hold the best potential for patients with these diagnoses:
        Pancreatic adenocarcinoma (cancer of the pancreas)
        Melanoma (the most dangerous type of skin cancer)
        Ovarian cancer
        Adenocarcinoma of the colon (colon cancer) and mucinous adenocarcinoma ("PMP" or pseudomyxoma)
        Renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer)
        Mesothelioma (a type of lung cancer often associated with asbestos exposure)
        Certain sarcomas, including rhabdomyosarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and DSRCT
We're steadily experiencing successful outcomes in a number of other cancers as well; they're not yet listed here either because they are quite rare or because we don't yet have enough results to be sure that we're a better option for patients healthy enough to have multiple options.  We may also recommend combining our treatment program with chemotherapy for certain cancers as we continue to see the best treatment strategies emerge.  If you're interested and think it might be an option for you we'll be happy to talk with you about it.

There are other criteria which also apply.  Patients must be in an adequate state of overall health to make office visits.  You must be able to receive nutrition and medications through the digestive system (by mouth or feeding tube).  Liver and kidney function must be at adequate levels which we can help determine.

If you do begin this program, you'll be taking medicines by mouth several times each day and another by injection just under the skin three times each week.  We'll teach you how to handle these medicines and give yourself these simple injections.  The administration of these medicines takes place in your own home.  Every patient enrolled receives the active treatment (no placebos).

We'll have extensive discussions with you about the side effects of these medicines, which are generally far milder than traditional chemotherapy.  We'll also advise you in detail about the possible risks of treatment.  One thing we'll emphasize to you repeatedly is that there is no guarantee that this treatment will help you.  Our early work has produced very good responses, but no statistically significant conclusions about effectiveness can be drawn at present and of course no guarantees can ever be made to any patient with any treatment.

The ancient oath of Hippocrates is still good medical practice:  "First, do no harm."  We will go to great lengths to make sure that no patient takes undue risks of treatment and that no patient neglects another treatment which could have been expected to provide significant benefit.

What if I do not meet the recommended eligibility criteria?

There are some patients who are not ideal candidates for this program and yet have no other good options because their cancers have persisted and progressed despite other therapy.  In many cases, we may still make this regimen available to such patients, with these individuals receiving exactly the same care as those who are more ideal candidates.  If you feel that this may be your situation, we will be happy to discuss it with you.

Shouldn't I just wait to see if my doctor recommends this?

Even in this day and age, many patients simply let their physician make their treatment decisions.  Even though the overwhelming majority of physicians act with integrity, letting anyone else make your decisions may not be the best way to help yourself.  Many patients with deadly malignancies discover too late that there might have been other options that they never heard about because they didn't ask the right questions.  We believe that cancer patients must become highly educated about their disease and relevant treatment options, seek advice from physicians, and "take the driver's seat" themselves in order to receive the best care in a timely fashion.

The currently approved drugs and treatments are simply not very effective for some of the worst cancers.  And yet your doctor may not have presented investigative or off-label treatment as a serious option.  A few of the reasons most patients are never directed toward newer or investigative treatments are these:
1.  There are a multitude of clinical trials and investigative treatments being offered around the nation, making it very difficult for an oncologist to know what's going on in each of them.  It takes a lot of time and effort, and therefore you may be the person best suited and motivated to sort through what's reasonable for you.
2.  Many physicians have been trained to rely on "evidence-based medicine."  That's a very good thing when used properly because it means doctors don't use suspect treatments or medicines that don't have a reasonable basis.  Unfortunately, many have misapplied what should be a healthy skepticism and instead don't even want to know about anything that isn't already listed as a standard indicated therapy.  There are two obvious problems with just sticking to the same old treatments.  First, as noted above, many of them rarely give any significant benefit or increased survival.  And second, if nothing new is ever tried, there will never be any new knowledge or more effective treatments either now or in the future.  Ethically applied investigative techniques are the source of new medical knowledge.  A treatment program should have the potential to help you first and foremost, and also to generate knowledge which will help others.  Some of the medical community needs to rethink the advice of not using anything that hasn't yet gone through randomized blinded clinical trials when the patient in front of them will be dead in twelve months by following that advice.
3.  Some physicians are unwilling to suggest that patients look into treatment elsewhere even if they know the treatment they can offer is not likely to result in significant benefit.  There can be a number of reasons for this.
4.  Many patients don't want to know that their treatment isn't working all that well or has very little potential to enhance their survival, and prefer instead to hear only hopeful-sounding statements.  Many physicians sense this, or even assume it, and limit information accordingly.
5.  Because we are still early in the development process (see more on the page marked "Research"), it is not likely that your physician will be familiar with this treatment yet.  It takes a long time to go through the meticulous and important process of clinical trials, publication, and FDA recognition.  Until then your doctor probably will not have heard of this work and wouldn't have an objective basis for evaluating its effectiveness.  Keep in mind that while this means your doctor probably wouldn't be familiar enough with this treatment technique to endorse it, neither would they have any valid and honest basis for criticizing it.
In short, we believe that it is a very poor idea for any patient with any diagnosis to remain a passive participant.  We believe that patients should learn as much as possible and ask the tough questions about any treatment proposed.  Cancer patients in particular need to ask for very direct and specific information on proposed treatments.  What benefit has it been shown to provide for most patients?  Does it consistently increase survival, and if so what are the data for how long an increase?  Can it be expected to result in a complete response (that is, eradication of the cancer)?  What are the most common and most serious side effects?  When you find that most patients experience only a very modest added survival time and very few or none achieve a complete response, you may wish to think about other options.

We also encourage patients to take on this role early in their cancer experience.  Cancer relentlessly progresses and weakens the body, and we often find that patients who might have been helped earlier in their course have instead waited long enough that nothing can help them or they can no longer withstand any type of treatment.

The decisions are yours and you should investigate every option available to you.  If you think this program may be a good option for you, you may want to go on to the "Getting Started" page.

NeoPlas Innovation  --  oncology answers you can live with.