What is Immunotherapy?

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For most of us, our immune systems fight off disease every day. A healthy immune system can even fight off life-threatening diseases like cancer. And when we do get sick, a healthy immune system attacks sickness and help us get back to feeling like ourselves again. Immunotherapy (also called biotherapy) is a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, and restore immune system function to increase its effectiveness at eliminating cancer cells. Immunotherapy is a developed treatment that changed the way cancer is treated, by targeting a protein found on cancer cells using the body’s own immune system.​


Principle & Procedure

Immunotherapy procedure-Click to zoom

Many types of cancer possess a protein found uniquely in cancer cells, this protein playing a role in tumor invasiveness and is not found in normal tissues. Immunotherapy is a developed method which create a way to effectively destroy cancer cells while at the same time sparing normal tissues.
The immunotherapy begins with collection and selection of special cells from the blood called dendritic cells (DC) and cytokine-induced killer cells (CIK). Dendritic cells process foreign substances such as the cancer cells and present them to the body’s immune cells (T-cells and B-cells) to initiate their destruction of the cancer cells. The DC-CIK cells are collected from the blood to be cultivated and activated to fight cancer cells, this system exists naturally in the body, but the number of DC-CIK cells are normally insufficient to succeed in defeating a malignancy. After few days of amplifying in the cells laboratory, the DC-CIK are re-introduced into the body by IV injection. Once the DC cells are in the body, they interact with T-cells and B-cells in order to attract them to the protein fragments of cancer cells, and thus T-cells and B-cells can recognize the foreign protein on the cancer cells. This recognition enables the destruction of the cancer cells by T-cells and B-cells.


Advantages of Immunotherapy:

  • Activated and tumor-specific immune cells can reach areas that a surgeon cannot, and the immune system may, when appropriately stimulated, target even microscopic disease and disseminated metastase.
  • Immunotherapy does not preferentially attack dividing tumor cells, as chemotherapy and radiation therapy usually do. Thus, cancer cells that are slowly dividing or quiescent (properties are associated with cancer stem cells) might be more efficiently targeted by immunotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy might strike more specifically against the tumor, thus lowering the damage to surrounding healthy tissue and preventing debilitating side effects that are nearly unavoidable with radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy empowers the immune system to continue killing cancer cells over time. Some activated immune cells become memory cells, which remain primed to stimulate an anticancer immune response when tumor cells bearing target antigens are encountered within the body.​
  • Immunotherapy offers a different mechanistic approach than traditional therapies, it provides synergy with other local, systematic and natural therapies to give more profound result comparing with these treatments alone.​
  • Although surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy can kill cancer cells to various degrees respectively, none can eradicate cancer at the single cell level. Thus, to effectively prevent recurrence and metastasis (the spreading of cancer to other parts of the body), the immune system of the host enhanced by cell immunotherapy is the key. Appropriate immunotherapy at appropriate stages of the disease greatly increases the chance of cure in cancer patients

​PD-1 Immunotherapy

Tumor immunotherapy is a method to restrain and kill cancer cells through mobilizing the body’s immune system to the antineoplastic immunity. Tumor immunotherapy is one of the most promising and advanced treatment in cancer treatment field.

PD-1 (programmed death-1) is gained from apoptosis T-cell hybridoma. PD-1 is one kind of active form T-cell surface receptor. PD-1 has two ligands: PD-L1 (B7-H1) and PD-L2 (B7-DC). The inner tumor microenvironment will induce the infiltrative T-cell high expressing PD-1 molecule, the tumor cell will high expressing the ligands of PD-1 (PD-L1 and PD-L2), which leading PD-1 pathway sustained activation in tumor microenvironment. After PD-L1 connecting with PD-1, T-cell function will be restrained, and unable to send out tumor attacking signals to immune system. 

PD-1/ PD-L1 inhibitor can interdict the connection of PD-1 and PD-L1, and interdict negative control signals to recover T-cell viability, and then improve the immune response. PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitor have significant effect in a variety of cancer treatment. 

PD-1/PD-L1 immunotherapy is mainly used in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer; melanoma; Hodgkin's lymphoma; liver cancer; breast cancer; rectal cancer; ovarian cancer; pleural mesotheliom; head and neck tumor.

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