Text: Su Ziqian (Chinese and Western physician)
(Hong Kong News) Sometimes, doctors will recommend using immunotherapy alone, but more often, it will be used in conjunction with other drugs. For example, immunotherapy can be added to chemotherapy, or it can be added to oral targeted drugs, or it can be added to Highly precise radiation therapy (electrotherapy) to achieve the effect of one plus one greater than two.
Therefore, sometimes when it is recommended that patients use immunotherapy in conjunction with other drugs, some patients immediately say that although other doctors have said that immunotherapy is not suitable for use, why do other doctors say it is available? Because one doctor said that immunotherapy is not suitable for use alone, and another doctor said that immunotherapy is suitable for mixed therapy.
There are actually two different concepts here. So if the patient is treated with traditional Chinese medicine at the same time, how can traditional Chinese medicine cooperate with the use of immunotherapy, or can it enhance immunity?
Drug resistance will appear and rebound will occur again
Here is a brief description of the currently commonly used immunotherapy. In fact, it mainly involves injecting some drugs to make immune lymphocytes recognize cancer cells again and attack them. This is an indirect immune stimulation. Some patients are initially effective at immunotherapy, but over time, the disease develops drug resistance and rebounds.
Logically speaking, immunity should not be resistant to drugs, but why do lymphocytes stop working and attack cancer cells? There are of course many reasons, one of which is quite common is the so-called T cell exhaustion. Simply put, lymphocytes do too much work and simply stop working when they are unable to do so.
Of course, this kind of strike is not entirely due to T cells doing too much, but because tumor cells and some immunosuppressive cells send out these negative signals near the tumor, causing T lymphocytes to strike and reduce their activity. Therefore, if there are drugs that can increase the activity of lymphocytes, it is expected to be an important auxiliary treatment.
Coincidentally, many qi-tonifying traditional Chinese medicines actually have the ability to increase lymphocyte activity. At least there are indeed these research reports in the laboratory. For example, the commonly used traditional Chinese medicine astragalus can increase the activity of lymphocytes when used in large doses.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, cancer is a type of chronic sore.
Chronic sores never go away. One of the reasons is deficiency of righteousness.
It’s just that weakness can roughly be translated into what modern people call insufficient immunity.
Therefore, according to traditional Chinese medicine, the occurrence of cancer is definitely related to insufficient immunity.
In order to improve the righteousness, the so-called “taking the poison out” means that the righteousness must first expel the disease pathogens from the body.
One of the medicines is Beiqi.
Therefore, regardless of modern research or ancient medical theory,
Traditional Chinese medicine and the current general direction of immunotherapy are complementary to each other.
In addition, after immunotherapy, the most common side effect is that the patient will lie down for a few days after the injection. Some patients with stronger immune system stimulation will feel very tired, as if they have a severe cold.
From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, it is like the patient has exhausted his “qi”. It is said that immunotherapy stimulates the body’s qi to attack cancer cells and uses qi. Therefore, the main direction of treating side effects in this area is to “supplement Qi”.
Immunity attacks internal organs causing inflammation
Some patients have recovered from the disease that originally spread after taking immunotherapy. But there are also some patients who have been taking medicine for two or three years and find that their bodies are getting really tired. This is what our Chinese medicine calls extreme qi deficiency.
There is a saying in traditional Chinese medicine that the so-called “strengthening fire and eating qi” means that if the body’s fire stimulation is very strong, it will deplete the body’s qi. Be aware that in rare cases, you may experience various inflammatory autoimmune side effects with immunotherapy.
The most common one is skin rash. In some people, the immune system attacks the internal organs, causing pneumonia, hepatitis, nephritis, etc. In some patients, it can cause inflammation of the large and small intestines and cause severe diarrhea. According to traditional Chinese medicine, these diseases are caused by excessive fire in the body. Therefore, at this time, it is necessary to appropriately use heat-reducing drugs to deal with complications. Moreover, according to traditional Chinese medicine, this inflammatory reaction is considered to be too strong a fire evil, which will also consume the body’s qi, so it is called “eating qi”.
I have noticed that some current studies have found that, especially in patients with lung cancer, the skin side effects are stronger and the effectiveness of immunotherapy is better after immunotherapy. This is quite reasonable from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine. For many diseases, in traditional Chinese medicine, the most important thing is to relieve the symptoms, which means to expel the disease pathogens from the surface of the skin or the outside of the body. It is commonly known as a detoxification reaction.
Therefore, it is not necessarily a bad thing if a lung cancer patient develops a mild rash after immunotherapy. However, if the skin reaction is very serious, it must be treated with medication. Otherwise, it will cause skin ulcers all over the body and even require admission to emergency treatment (ICU).
Different Chinese medicines need to be used in conjunction with each other
Immunotherapy can also cause some skin conditions – some patients who have never had eczema, psoriasis and rubella may develop these problems during immunotherapy. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, these are “wind-heat”, so they need to be “dispelled”. Commonly used traditional Chinese medicines include Fangfeng, honeysuckle, etc., which are all medicines that clear away heat and relieve itching. On the one hand, it can alleviate skin reactions, and on the other hand, it can help relieve the skin and expel evil spirits, killing two birds with one stone. Of course, the combination of immunotherapy and traditional Chinese medicine is by no means that simple. Due to the word limit, I will introduce it next time.
In fact, how immunotherapy is used with Chinese medicine requires different Chinese medicines to neutralize and coordinate with each other. It is by no means just relying on one or two Chinese medicines to be taken continuously, and the patient’s condition will change depending on how long the medicine is taken. Therefore, no matter what, before patients use Chinese and Western medicine to treat cancer, they should consult their treating doctors for safety precautions.