Using the Body’s Immune System to Fight Cancer

Also known as biological therapy, immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Because they originate in the body as normal cells, cancer cells often fail to be recognized as “foreign” by the immune system and are free to replicate out of control. Immunotherapies are designed to alert the immune system about these mutated cells so it can locate and destroy them. Immunotherapy may be an option for a growing number of cancers including kidney cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, and some forms of head and neck cancers. It is often paired with other treatments and may work better for some than others.

Illustration of cellular view

Understanding Immunotherapy in Cancer Treatment

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.
A closeup of equipment used to generate cellular therapies at UH Seidman Cancer Center

Generating Cellular Therapies On-site at UH Seidman Cancer Center

Immunotherapy is the next frontier in cancer therapy. It uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. At University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, we are able to generate cellular therapies onsite, allowing us to get these cancer treatments to patients more quickly.
John J. Letterio, MD speaking on the HPV vaccine

Why the HPV Vaccine is Important

The HPV Vaccine prevents about 30 percent of cancers in adults. John Letterio, MD, Division Chief, Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospitals explains how this vaccine is a form of immunotherapy will allow us to eradicate many HPV-related cancers in our lifetime.

There are three general types of immunotherapy drugs:

  • Checkpoint inhibitors – Disrupt signals that allow cancer cells to hide from an immune attack
  • Cytokines and immune modulators – Protein molecules that help regulate and direct the immune system
  • Cancer vaccines – Both to treat and to prevent cancer by stimulating and strengthening the natural abilities of immune cells already in the blood

The physician-scientists at the Wesley Center for Immunotherapy at UH Seidman Cancer Center are at the forefront of research efforts to find, test and develop immunotherapy drugs, which has unlimited potential and could, quite possibly, become the anti-cancer treatment of the future.

CAR T-Cell Immunotherapy

UH is proud to offer CAR T-Cell therapy, an FDA-approved immunotherapy that uses the body's own T-cells, a type of white blood cell, to fight cancer. This therapy shows promise in treating certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that have relapsed or have been resistant to other types of cancer treatment.

Wesley Center for Immunotherapy at UH Seidman Cancer Center

The Wesley Center for Immunotherapy at UH Seidman Cancer Center is named in honor of Kimberly and Joseph Wesley. The Wesley family donated $10 million to support groundbreaking research and bring new, life-extending immunotherapy treatments to patients.

This center which generates CAR T, NK cell and other cell based therapies is on-site, which enables patients to have access to the latest therapies more quickly. For example, UH experts are creating cells for treatment in just eight days, down from an average of 12 – 30 days in commercially available CAR T-cell therapy trials. This innovation allows UH Seidman Cancer Center physicians to deliver therapy in a timely manner and to more patients than would otherwise be possible.

University Hospitals is one of less than a dozen academic medical centers to have successfully manufactured CAR T-cells for human use, and is the cornerstone of the nation’s only National Center for Regenerative Medicine.

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