Our immune system contains cells beyond stem cells which help us to fight infections and can be trained to destroy cancer cells and regulated to gain control of autoimmune diseases. The prevention or treatment of disease with substances that stimulate the immune response is called immunotherapy, and it’s one of the most exciting areas in cancer research and infectious disease.
Using dendritic cells as a courier, researchers are looking for ways to teach a person’s immune system to destroy cancer cells. Some researchers are focusing on natural killer cells to destroy cancer cells and viruses. Others are enhancing and directing T cells to destroy abnormal cells while some focus on regulating T cells to stop the overactive immune system that destroys healthy cells and tissues such as in multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.
What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is treatment that uses certain parts of a person’s immune system to fight diseases such as cancer, auto-immune disorder or viral disease. Immunotherapy is a type of treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses. It uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. It is not entirely clear how immunotherapy treats cancer. However, it may work in the following ways:
- Stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells
- Stopping cancer from spreading to other parts of the body by training the immune system to attack cancer cells specifically
- Helping the immune system work better at destroying cancer cells, virus or other foreign bodies
In the last few decades immunotherapy has become an important part of treating some types of cancer. Newer types of immune treatments are now being studied, and they’ll impact how we treat cancer in the future. This field has been labeled immune-oncology.
Cell-based immunotherapies are proven to be effective for some cancers. Immune effector cells such as lymphocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, natural killer cells (NK Cell), cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), etc., work together to defend the body against cancer by targeting abnormal antigens expressed on the surface of the tumor due to mutation.