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.

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 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.