What is Tumor Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy, also referred to as immune therapy, is a new approach for the treatment of cancer that harnesses the natural power of the immune system to combat cancer growth. The field of immune therapy is rapidly gaining recognition around the world for its potential to revolutionize cancer therapy. In fact, leading clinicians and scientists across the globe predict that it will soon stand alongside surgery, radiation and chemotherapy as the “fourth pillar” of cancer therapy – and that it may well prove to be the most important therapy of them all. We have already seen numerous success stories of cancers fought and lives extended through this treatment approach.

The immune system is our body’s specialized defense system against disease-causing germs, viruses and bacteria. Its primary function is to keep us healthy, and to combat illness and infections. While the immune system is effective against a whole host of invaders, it often lacks the intrinsic strength required to combat cancer on its own.

The goal of immune therapy is therefore to stimulate and enhance the disease-fighting responses of the immune system, such that they will be equipped with the necessary power and endurance to eliminate cancer from the body. One of the key players in this process is our white blood cells, and in particular, T cells. White blood cells are important cells in our immune system and can recognize and attack cancer cells. Immune therapy is based on the principle that if we properly stimulate the immune system, we will be able to use our own body’s system to treat cancer.

Immune therapy is particularly appealing because it can specifically target cancer tissues (and not healthy tissues) and thus generally has limited side effects. This is extremely exciting, considering the nature of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which can damage healthy tissues in addition to cancerous tissues. In addition, immune therapy offers the chance of having a long-lasting effect for the patient, by taking advantage of the immune system’s remarkable ability to “remember” the invaders that it has eliminated in the past.