Controlling the immune response of people dying from cancer might help save them from pain, fatigue, and loss of appetite, according to researchers.

Experts hope by using existing drugs to control symptoms, people in their last few weeks of life can have a more comfortable time before they die.

Until now it was thought that these symptoms were an inevitable side effect of advanced cancer and that there was little doctors could do to help alleviate these symptoms. This study, however, shows that the symptoms experienced by people at the end of their life are actually due to the body’s inflammatory response to the cancer and that controlling this response could, therefore, help control the symptoms.

The study was lead by Dr Barry Laird at Edinburgh University and was a joint venture with the European Palliative Care Research Centre. It used blood tests from over 2,500 patients to assess inflammation levels in patients with various cancers including breast, lung and colon cancer and found that a person’s level of inflammation appeared to have a direct effect on the way they felt.

Dr Laird said : “We already have drugs that target and reduce inflammation, so using these drugs specifically to treat symptoms may make a real difference to people living with cancer.”


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