Understanding Immunotherapy : How Immunotherapy Is Used To Treat Cancer


Immunotherapy is a broad term for a type of cancer treatment that triggers the body’s immune system to combat cancerous cells. The immunotherapy treatment uses certain substances to improve the function of the immune system to detect and fight cancer cells. The substances involving in immunotherapy include either the laboratory ones or antibodies from the body to destroy cancer cells. Moreover, immunotherapy can effectively boost the body’s ability to fight cancer by using the natural defense system. There are different types of immunotherapy that are in practice for the treatment of cancer and the patient can opt for the best-suited type to treat their cancer. Immunotherapy is the perfect choice for some types of cancer, such as melanoma, prostate cancer, and bladder cancer. [1]

However, immunotherapy does not always work miracles in case of every type of cancer, but research is going on for treating all types of cancer through immunotherapy. Other names for immunotherapy are biological therapies and targeted treatments. The body’s immune system functions its best to protect the body from illness, disease, infections, and the development of cancer. Th immune system works in association with white blood cells, spleen, and lymph glands to fight cancerous cells. Also, the immune system recognizes the presence of faulty cells and then destroys them. A cancer might start developing when the cancer cells induce signals that inhibit the immune system from attacking them and also when the immune system is too weak to destroy the cancer cells even after detecting their presence.

Immunotherapy is a standard treatment to trigger the immune system to first recognize and then kill the cancer cells to prevent the further progression of cancer in the body. In case of certain cancer patients, the cancer cells manage to hide from the immune system but the immunotherapy aids in detecting and combating of these cancer cells. The different types of immunotherapy work differently to improve the function of the immune system. It is important to understand that cancer cells are not as same as normal cells of the body, the cancer cells do not die generally. Cancer cells tend to divide rapidly in an out-of-control manner and these abnormal cells rapidly mutate and evade the immune system thus stopping the body’s natural defense system. After the abnormal division of cancer cells, the immune system is no longer able to protect the body from infections and diseases.

The drugs in use for immunotherapy help in alerting the immune system about the mutated cancer cells and then destroying them. Immunotherapy can be a treatment option for several types of cancer and you can use it in combination with other treatment options as well. Tons of researches are focusing on various major aspects to improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy by testing different combinations to overcome the resistance against immunotherapy. Although immunotherapy works best for certain cancers, but it only a few patients respond well to the treatment. Immunotherapy works perfectly for treating prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and cervical cancer. It is the ultimate decision of the cancer patients and caregivers to pursue for immunotherapy and the doctors can customize the treatment course according to the patient’s concerns. [2]

1How Does Immunotherapy Work?

How does immunotherapy work?
How does immunotherapy work?

Immunotherapy is a standard treatment for certain types of cancer that uses body’s immune system to fight and kill cancer cells. From the last few decades, researchers are working on making immunotherapy an important aspect of cancer treatment due to its effectiveness and less possibility of side effects. New treatments involving immunotherapy are under testing and approval phases to work with the immune system in an advanced way to fight cancer at a rapid pace. [3]

  • Immunotherapy generally triggers the immune system by the following couple of ways:
    • Stimulating the natural defense of the body’s immune system so that it works smarter and harder to recognize and then kill cancer cells
    • Producing certain substances in a lab, which are similar to the immune system’s components and then using these substances in restoring or improving the work of the immune system to fight against cancer cells

Immunotherapy might solely work effectively in certain types of cancer, but in other types it works better in a combination with other cancer treatments like radiation therapy, medications, or chemotherapy. In addition, immunotherapy might work best for certain types of cancer than for other types. The natural defense system of the body works along with a couple of organs, substances, and special cells that protect the body from diseases and some other infections. Immune system substances and the specialized cells travel throughout the body to protect the body from foreign invaders that might cause infection. The immune system also helps in protecting the body from the development of cancer in some ways.

Normally, the immune system manages to keep up with all of the substances present in the body. in case of the presence of any foreign invader or substance that the immune system does not recognize rings the alarm thus signaling the immune system to invade it. While the immune system goes through a tough time to target the cancer cells because these cells somehow manage to hide and dodge the immune system. The cancer cells have certain proteins on their surface which block the signals to the immune system and thus the cancer cells remain out of the immune system radar. Another reason for the immune system’s failure to defend the body against cancer is that the cancer develops in normal and healthy cells so the immune system does not always detect their presence as foreign particles.

Cancer begins with the altering of the healthy and normal cells in the body and then they grow in an abnormal manner spreading throughout the body. it is quite clear that the immune system faces certain limitations to fight cancer all alone because it is very common in people with healthy immune systems to develop cancer. Immunotherapy helps the body’s immune system to overcome the limitations to fight cancer to some extent by keeping in check the following aspects:

Immunotherapy makes the immune system to detect the cancer cells that are not dissimilar enough from normal body cells and then attack them

Sometimes the immune system is quite weak to fight all the cancer cells so immunotherapy makes the immune response strong enough to avenge all the cancer cells possible after recognizing them

Immunotherapy contains certain inhibitors and other substances that also detect the cancer cells, which are releasing particles to stay out from the immune system’s radar