Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body’s natural defences to fight the cancer by inducing, enhancing or suppressing an immune response. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function.
What Is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is the treatment of disease that uses your body’s own immune system to help fight cancer by inducing, enhancing or suppressing an immune response. Cancer immunotherapy attempts to stimulate the immune system to reject or destroy tumours.
The efficacy of immunotherapy is enhanced by around 30% when combined with conventional cancer treatments.
Types of Cancer Immunotherapy
There are a myriad of different immunotherapies that work in various ways to either boost the body’s immune system or train the immune system to attack cancer cells, including:
Cellular Therapies are treatments where a patient’s white blood cells are stimulated outside the body to identify and eliminate cancer cells and then returned to the patient. Examples include treatments where white blood cells from the patient are mixed with proteins from tumours or are modified through gene therapy to enhance their ability to find tumour cells.
Cellular material may also be injected into a patient;this generally means intact, living cells, e.g. T cells capable of fighting cancer cells.
Cell therapies have the potential to address critical, unmet needs in the treatment of some of the deadliest diseases, including diabetes, cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF) is a growth factor that stimulates the production, maturation and activation of three types of white blood cells : neutrophils, macrophages and dendritic cells, each of which has a distinct purpose and function within the immune system. GM-CSF isoften used to boost white blood cell count after chemotherapy.
Interferons are antiviral protein molecules produced by cells that have been invaded by a virus; they boost the ability of certain immune cells to attack and slow the growth of cancer cells. Interferons are often used to treat certain forms of leukaemia and lymphoma.
Interleukins are molecules are lymphokines that promote macrophages and killer T cells and B cells and other components of the immune system that act as chemical signals to help immune system cells grow and divide more quickly. Interleukins are often used to treat kidney cancer or metastatic melanoma.
Monoclonal Antibody Therapy is a form of Immunotherapy that uses monoclonal antibodies (mAb) to bind mono-specifically to certain cells or proteins.
Monoclonal Antibodies are man-made versions of proteins that can be found in the immune system and which can be designed to specifically target certain substances that cause an immune response (antigens ) such as those found on cancer cells.
Antibodies can be very useful in treating cancer because they can be designed to attack a very specific part of a cancer cell. Monoclonal antibody drugs enlist natural immune system functions to fight cancer. These drugs may be used in combination with other cancer treatments. Monoclonal Antibody Therapy is often used to treat Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and certain types of Leukaemia.
Vaccine Therapy – Cancer Vaccines make use of substances which are inserted into the body to help it to boost its inbuilt ability to protect itself against “foreign invaders,” including cancer. The substances could be genetic material that can produce a tumour antigen (DNA vaccine), antigens from cancer cells, or tumour cells that have been engineered to start an immune response.
There are basically two kinds of cancer vaccine therapies:
- Preventive vaccines prevent cancer from developing in healthy people similar to how a flu vaccine thwarts influenza;
- Treatment vaccines delay or halt the cell growth that is a hallmark of cancer.
Please note that the Little Fighters Cancer Trust shares information regarding various types of cancer treatments on this blog merely for informational use. LFCT does not endorse or promote any specific cancer treatments – we believe that the public should be informed but that the option is theirs to take as to what treatments are to be used.
Always consult your medical practitioner prior to taking any other medication, natural or otherwise.