Immunotherapy is fairly new in the world of cancer treatment. The Cancer Research Institute has a Time Line explaining vertually every discovery in cancer research beginning in 1890! The earliest known description of cancer is in papyri from Ancient Egypt written around 1600 BC.
Cancer cells are able to thrive by hiding from the immune system. Immunotherapy works by boosting the immune system to work better against cancer. Some immunotherapies work by markinggg cancer cells making them easier for the immune system to find.
Types of Immunotherapy
Adoptive Cell Transfer is a treatment that attempts to boost the natural ability of your T cells to fight cancer. T cells are taken from your tumor. Then those that are most active against your cancer are grown in large batches in the lab.
Checkpoint Inhibitors are drugs that help the immune system respond more strongly to a tumor. These drugs interfere with the ability of cancer cells to avoid the immune system.
Cytokines are proteins made by our body’s cells. These proteins play important roles in the body’s normal immune responses cancer. The two main types of cytokines used to treat cancer are called interferons and interleukins.
BCG stands for Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, and is an immunotherapy that is used specifically to treat bladder cancer. When inserted directly into the bladder, BCG causes an immune response against cancer. It is being studied on other types of cancer.
Monoclonal antibodies or therapeutic antibodies, are immune system proteins created in a lab. These antibodies attach to cancer cells. Some of these antibodies mark cancer cells so that they can be better seen and destroyed by the immune system. Other monoclonal antibodies stop cancer cells directly or cause them to self-destruct.
Lastly, immunotherapy is not as widely used as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Immunotherapies have been approved to treat many cancers. National Cancer Institute (NIH) explains the types of cancers immunotherapy can treat, and how it works against cancer here.
Many new immunotherapies are being studied in clinical trials, to find a study that may be an option for you, visit Find a Clinical Trial.