How Immunotherapy Works
Immunotherapies stimulate or boost the immune system’s natural defenses to work harder to fight cancer. They can be injected directly into a vein, swallowed in pill or capsule form or applied topically through a cream that is rubbed onto the skin.
Some of the most common types of immunotherapies used to treat cancer include:
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors: These are drugs that block immune checkpoints, which are a normal part of the immune system, and allow cells to respond more strongly to cancer.
- CarT-cell therapy: Sometimes talked about as a type of cell-based gene therapy, this involves altering immune cells called T cells(a type of white blood cell) in a laboratory so that they are better able to find and destroy cancer cells. They are placed back into the body intravenously, through a needle in a vein.
- Monoclonal antibodies: These immune system proteins are created in a lab and designed to bind to specific targets on cancer cells. They are then marked so that they will be better seen and destroyed by the immune system.
- Vaccines: These treatments are different than vaccines that help prevent disease; they work against cancer by boosting the body’s response to cancer cells.
In the last few decades Immunotherapy has been approved for the treatment of many cancers, including bladder, cervical, breast, colorectal, lymphoma and melanoma, among others. Patients may receive immunotherapy in a doctor’s office, an oncology clinic or, in some cases, in a hospital setting.