Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. By stimulating and supporting the immune system, the body begins to fight the disease more aggressively. Immunotherapy is sometimes used as a single method or in combination with other treatments for maximum efficiency.
Our immune system protects us from things that are harmful. In the immune system T-cells have receptors that scan cells to distinguish between normal cells and abnormal cells (virus infected cells). Once detected, abnormal cells are attached and removed by T-cells. Cancer cells are normal cells that have mutated. The more mutation they have, the more easily they are detected. Cancer cells can prevent elimination with a help of PD-L1 which deactivates T-cells’ scanning system. PD-L1 prevents T-cells from destroying cancer cells.
Types of immunotherapy:
Checkpoint inhibitors. The drugs work by removing molecular brakes that prevent T-cells from seeing cancer as a threat.
Monoclonal antibodies: They can be designed in the lab, once the antigen is identified. Antibodies then find the antigen on cancer cells and attack it.
Cancer Vaccines: Some vaccines can prevent or treat cancer.
Other methods are used to boost the immune system in a general way which can still help to attack cancer cells.
Immunotherapy drugs are used to treat many types of cancer. Immunotherapy is not a universal “cure”, but it is fast becoming a powerful new weapon alongside chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.