June 2022 is the 10th Annual Cancer Immunotherapy Month hosted by the Cancer Research Institute. This month aims to raise awareness around this form of treatment for cancer patients and there has never been a more exciting time in immunotherapy research. This is due to ongoing discoveries and improvements in patients’ cancer diagnoses. Since 1953, the Cancer Research Institute has led the field with supported immunotherapy research and clinical trials. The 10th Annual Cancer Immunotherapy Months aim is to fund revolutionary breakthroughs to cure all types of cancers1.
What is cancer immunotherapy?
Cancer immunotherapy is “a type of cancer treatment that can help your immune system fight cancer”2. The immune system is made up of white blood cells and helps the body fight diseases and infections. This therapy is a type of biological therapy, that uses substances made from living organisms to treat cancer.
Cancer immunotherapy was first used by Dr William B. Coley, in 1891. Inspired by a case he had read about, Coley decided to use bacteria to purposely infect his patient, who had many advanced tumors including one in his throat, which prevented him from eating. This new therapy was successful on the patient, but this approach was widely dismissed during Dr Coley’s lifetime due to many factors including the advent of radiation and then chemotherapy1.
How does immunotherapy help against cancer?
Immunotherapy for cancer works by “stimulating the immune system. Treatments can fuel the body’s production of cancer-fighting cells or help healthy cells identify and attack cancer cells”3. Therefore, by giving a cancer patient immunotherapy treatment, cells already found in the body are encouraged to work against the cancer by attacking the abnormal cells.
Types of immunotherapies
There are a variety of different immunotherapy treatments available for cancer patients today. The type of treatment decided for the patient is dependent on the doctor or medical professionals’ opinion on the cancer.
- Monoclonal antibodies (MABs) – These antibodies mimic natural cells but are made in labs. The MAB works by recognizing and finding specific proteins on cells, this can either trigger the immune system to attack and kill the cancer cells, or act on cells to help the immune system attack the abnormal cells.
- Checkpoint Inhibitors – One main type of immune cell that kills bacteria and viruses is called a T cell. They have proteins that turn on an immune response and other proteins that turn it off at the checkpoint proteins. The Checkpoint Inhibitors stop the proteins turning off the checkpoints, so the T-cell can recognize the cancer cell, attack, and kill it.
- Cytokines – This group of proteins in the body boost the immune system, interfere with the way cancer cells grow and multiply. Cytokines do this by stimulating the immune system and encouraging killer T cells to attack cancer cells or encouraging cancer cells to produce chemicals that attract immune system cells to them.
- Vaccines – Scientists are now able to change viruses in the lab and use them as a type of carrier to deliver cancer antigen to the patient’s body. The immune system then reacts to this vaccine and recognizes and responds to the cancer antigen.
- CAR T-Cell Therapy – For this immunotherapy, the medical team will take a sample of the patients T-cells and genetically engineer them, they then grow and multiply in the lab. When enough cells have been created, a drip is inserted into the patient to add the T-cells back into the bloodstream. The aim here is for the CAR T-cells to recognize and attack the cancer cells4.
Immunotherapy and Diaceutics
Diaceutics pride ourselves in finding better testing, and better treatment for patients. Charlotte White, Diaceutics Domain Expert in Professional Services states the following.
‘Immunotherapy is at the forefront of Precision Medicine today. It has transformed patient care as we know it, giving patients better treatment outcomes vs systemic therapy so it is no surprise that it continues to evolve into new indications and into earlier lines of treatment. At Diaceutics, we help our clients to diagnostic landscape, which is key in immunotherapy, to ensure that patient eligibility is assessed at the appropriate point in the patient journey.’
Talk to one of our Precision Medicine Experts today to understand how we can work together to get patients better testing, better treatment.