Immunotherapy for Cancer Treatment
Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to boost the immune system and help the body find and destroy cancer cells.
As part of its normal function, the immune system detects and destroys abnormal cells and most likely prevents or curbs the growth of many cancers. For instance, immune cells are sometimes found in and around tumors. These cells, called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes or TILs, are a sign that the immune system is responding to the tumor. People whose tumors contain TILs often do better than people whose tumors don’t contain them.
Even though the immune system can prevent or slow cancer growth, cancer cells have ways to avoid destruction by the immune system. For example, cancer cells may have genetic changes that make them less visible to the immune system, or cancer cells may have proteins on their surface that turn off immune cells, and also change the normal cells around the tumor so they interfere with how the immune system responds to the cancer cells.
When the immune system detects something harmful, it makes antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that fight infections by attaching to antigens. Antigens are molecules that start the immune response in your body.
Monoclonal antibodies are made in a laboratory to boost the body's natural antibodies or act as antibodies themselves. Monoclonal antibodies can help fight cancer in different ways. For example, they can be used to block the activity of abnormal proteins in cancer cells. This is also considered a type of targeted therapy, which is a cancer treatment using medication that targets a cancer's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that helps the tumor grow and survive.
Other types of monoclonal antibodies boost your immune system by inhibiting or stopping immune checkpoints. Immune checkpoints are used by the body to naturally stop an immune system response and prevent the immune system from attacking healthy cells. Cancer cells can find ways to hide from the immune system by activating these checkpoints.
Checkpoint inhibitors prevent cancer cells from blocking the immune system. Common checkpoints that these inhibitors affect are the PD-1/PD-L1 and CTLA-4 pathways.
Different types of immunotherapy work in different ways. Some immunotherapy treatments help the immune system stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. Others help the immune system destroy cancer cells or stop the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.
Immunotherapy can treat many different types of cancer. It can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy and/or other cancer treatments.
Immunotherapy has revolutionized oncology treatment in the last decade with the hope of cure for cancer in sight.