Williams Cancer Institute

What is the relationship between immunotherapy and the immune system?

One of the main objectives of the immune system is to detect and respond to germs from the body such as bacteria and abnormal cells such as cancer cells. Unfortunately, the full capabilities of the immune system to combat this disease are not yet fully understood, immunotherapy really helps to give a better quality of life to patients. Immunotherapy has the potential to be more precise, more personalized, and more effective than current cancer treatments, and, possibly, with fewer side effects.

We must keep in mind that cancer can be cured by our own immune system, but when it does not happen in this way, we must seek more aids to make this happen. These aids could be: educating the immune system to recognize and attack specific cancer cells, strengthen immune cells to help eliminate cancer, provide the body with other elements that enhance the immune response. A smart defense system able to differentiate healthy cells from tumor cells, immunotherapy helps patient’s immune system to recognize and fight tumor cells, without hurting healthy tissue to weaken tumor cells for more effective immune defense.

To get the body to fight this disease by itself, we can find several types of immunotherapy treatment such as: targeted antibodies, cancer vaccines, adoptive cell transfer, viruses that are injected into tumors, checkpoint inhibitors, cytokines, and adjuvants. Likewise, to enhance their effectiveness, there are many immunotherapy treatments to prevent, control or treat different types of cancer. They can also be used in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or specific treatments.

This is how the immune system defends us from numerous pathogens and in the same way it could defend us from the different cancers that exist or, to keep them under control and if it cannot cure it, at least it could stop the cancer from progressing. However, to help our body to effectively combat this disease, an optimal immune system must be maintained and for this immunotherapy treatments must be carried out where certain medications are applied to the body to strengthen the immune system and cause the body to heal.

The potential of immunotherapy and its expectations to improve tumor treatment have grown exponentially, now scientists can complement the immune system by creating and adapting antibodies directed against certain types of cancer in the laboratory.

In general, any cancer can be treated with immunotherapy, such as head and neck cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, melanoma and other skin cancers, liver cancer, lymphomas, leukemias, and there are currently clinical trials for the rest of the tumors. This benefit has been observed in the metastatic phase of these tumors, which has generated high expectations that it can be incorporated in earlier phases of the disease to increase the possibility of cure.


Reference: Cancer Research Institute, C. R. I, October 2020,What is Immunotherapy? Cancer Research Institute, https://www.cancerresearch.org/immunotherapy/what-is-immunotherapy?gclid=CjwKCAjwu5yYBhAjEiwAKXk_eA1spT3NZyLhvIpmqX70gSijKHd9bz_NPYDbcgbfMN094eVgEYsfYxoCYPgQAvD_BwE

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