Iowa cancer patients are being treated with a new kind of therapy that offers hope for some tough cases, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Doctor Ralph Hauke is an oncologist who explains they’re using a therapy called Proleukin. He says it’s a natural substance made in our bodies, but they’ve isolated and manufactured it so they can give patients a dose that’ll help their own immune system fight center better. Specifically, Proleukin is used in a couple kinds of cases, kidney cancer that’s spread throughout the body, not the kind you can easily take out with surgery, and a type of skin cancer called melanoma. There aren’t many treatments that work for these patients, but this one’s been used successfully and he says when patients do respond, their recovery tends to last a long time, eight years or more. So-called metastatic cancer has sent out cells that begin growing in other parts of the body, bad news for the patient. Most cancers that have become metastatic are basically incurable, Dr. Hauke says, a terrifying thing for the patient. The drugs used to treat other kinds of cancer won’t work on that form of the disease. The body has different kinds of immune cells that are involved in the fight against cancer, and this drug acts at different levels of different cells, he says, to make them work better. “It’s a completely different class of treatment than regular chemotherapy.” Still, the doctor says like any strong drug, this one also has side-effects. With more than 15 years experience now through the National Cancer Institute, they know a lot about the dosing for this type of drug, and know how to give it better. While there are some side effects that can be severe, they generally are reversible and can be managed well when the drug’s given by properly-trained staff. The University of Nebraska Medical Center’s the only such hospital in Nebraska or Iowa to offer this treatment, for metastatic melanoma and metastatic renal-cell carcinoma.
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