CHCWM – Cancer & Hematology Centers of West Michigan

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a treatment that boosts your immune system to fight and kill cancer cells.

Your immune system helps fight infections and other diseases. It is made of white blood cells, and tissues and organs of the lymph system.

One way cancer cells grow is their ability to hide from your immune system. Immunotherapy works by using the body’s own immune system to help fight cancer.  This can be done by marking cancer cells which makes the immune system more efficient at finding and destroying them.  Another way is by boosting the immune system to work better and smarter against cancer.

Types of immunotherapy treatments that help the immune system directly include:

  • Checkpoint inhibitors – interfere with the ability of cancer cells to avoid immune system attack.
  • Adoptive cell transfer – a treatment that attempts to boost the ability of your T-cells (a type of cell that is part of your immune system) to fight cancer. In this treatment, T-cells are removed from your tumor and changed in the lab to better attack cancer cells. After additional treatments, these cells are given back to you.  One example of this type of treatment is Car T-cell Therapy.
  • Monoclonal antibodies -Monoclonal antibodies may be considered targeted agents (see targeted therapy) or immunotherapy. Immunotherapy monoclonal antibodies are immune system proteins that are produced in a lab and are designed to attach to specific targets found on cancer cells. This marks the cancer cells so that they may be better seen and destroyed by the immune system.
  • Treatment vaccines – work by boosting the immune system’s natural defenses to attack cancer-specific antigens, which is found on the surface of cancer cells. These treatment vaccines are not the same as the ones that help prevent disease.