• What is immunotherapy?
  • What are types of cancer immunotherapy?
  • How is the future of immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy, also called biological therapy, has improved upon the treatment of various cancers. Why? This treatment boosts your quality of life significantly and prolongs your survival much more as compared to other therapies.

What Is Immunotherapy?

If you have allergies, you probably had allergy shots due to common cold and red eyes. Each does contains a very low concentration of c allergens.

The vaccine activates your immune system, but the dose is not high enough to make you sick. Doses are gradually increased. This enables you tolerate the allergen better.

In other words, you acquire immunity.

These allergy shots are a kind of immunotherapy. The same principle applies to vaccines of other diseases, such as measles and mumps.

How is this related to cancer?

A disease develops when a certain cell of your body acts abnormally. Researchers hope that immunotherapy activates natural defense mechanism of the body against cancer just like other microbes, viruses and allergies.

One of the approaches is to ensure that your body uses all available means to attack the cancer. Another one is to empower your defense mechanisms.

What are Types of Cancer Immunotherapy?

Researchers investigate numerous methods to help your immune system recognize and destroy the cancer cells.

 Adoptive T-Cell Immunotherapy

This method has been designed to strengthen main cells of your immune system. Basically, researchers try to separate the T cells (white blood cells in your immune system) in the tumor and identify the ones that are most effectively fighting the cancer. After they are identified, scientists use genetic engineering to make those cells more powerful and they are infused back into a vein of your body.

This approach is quite promising for treatment of many cancer types.

Car T-cell therapy.

Car-T cell therapy is a type of adoptive T-cell immunotherapy. This therapy is sometimes used for certain types of lymphoblastic leukemia in children and young adults and for B cell lymphoma in adults, when other treatments fail in these diseases.

 Cancer Vaccines share the same pathway with many other methods. They are usually divided into two groups:

Preventive vaccines have many common features with traditional ones. Both act with a substance, called antigen that stimulates your immune system mildly. One preventive cancer vaccine is used against Human Papilloma virus (HPV). This virus causes cervical, anal and other cancers.

Therapeutic vaccines try to help your T-cells identify and destroy specific cancers. Those vaccines can also be designed to increase number of antibodies (cells that destroy the invaders) in bloodstream. For instance, the vaccine developed for advanced stage pancreatic cancer is investigated in clinical trials.

Checkpoint Inhibitors

There are braking/control mechanisms to have healthy cells not attacked and killed by our immune system.

Sometimes, cancer cells take advantage of this mechanism and hide from your defense system by presenting themselves like a healthy cell. Hence, your system does not perceive the cancer cells as invaders.

These drugs help your immune system identify cancer as a problem and attack cancer cells.

Checkpoint inhibitors are clinically tried in many types of cancer. Certain individuals with metastatic melanoma and lung, gall bladder, kidney, head and neck cancers as well as Hodgkin lymphoma are treated with this method.

 Monoclonal antibodies are molecules that are produced in laboratories. These antibodies are designed to identify and attack cancer cells.

Your immune system is successful in terms of identifying the harmful organisms, but the bad news is that it does not always perceive the cancer cells as a problem.

Monoclonal antibodies ensure that your body launches an attack. They attach to cancer cells. Then, just like a beacon, they make those cells visible for your immune system and ensure a better struggle with those cells.

Some monoclonal antibodies can make the chemotherapy drugs or radioactive agents attach on themselves and help stop the growth of cancer cells.

These molecules treat many types of cancer. Researchers continue to investigate the possibility of treatment for many others.

How is the future of immunotherapy?

Researchers strive to discover new ways to help your immune system fight cancer and understand the defense mechanisms and how they protect you better.

Scientists also investigate how to combine immunotherapy with other treatments to ensure it works much better. Researchers also study the potential outcomes of combining two immunotherapy modalities.

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