Immunotherapy is a treatment procedure where one's own immune system is used to boost the body's natural defences to combat cancerous cells.
Our bodies continuously develop cancerous cells during our lifespan. A healthy immune system is able to find and destroy these cancerous cells before they grow any further. However, when the immune system becomes weak and fails to function properly, these cancerous cells begin to grow and expand.
Cancer is a fatal disease that effects almost every family, and it is a disease that is about to surpass heart disease as the number one cause of death in the USA. The good news is that cancer can be treated in the early stages by chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, targeted therapy, and hormonal therapy. Immunotherapy is a newer form of therapy that research has been working on to fight cancer by strengthening the immune system to fight cancer cells.
There has been some progress made through immunotherapy, but certainly more work needs to be done. The immune system is a collection of cells and organs that protect us from dangerous pathogens, bacteria, and viruses. Usually people do not think about the immune system as a weapon against cancer! The question we need to ask ourselves is why the immune system does not recognize cancer cells as a threat!
Cancer in general acts as a separate entity in the body and it hides from immune system. Cancers can build a fibrous wall or capsule around itself acting as a physical barrier to the invading immune cells that are coming to attack. Cancer can also make immune suppressive hormones in which they turn off the immune system. More interestingly, cancer can also attack the population of the immune cells.
Usually the immune system remembers and conveys durability to the response. The durability of the responses is seen after immunotherapy because the immune system is a living, dynamic organ inside our bodies that has, in fact, a molecular memory.
We are vaccinated as babies against many infectious diseases, and our bodies remember those responses for decades, For that reason, we do not need to be boosted again! So there are immune cells in a cancer patient body that remembers the cancer in case it should come back! The goal here is to have a durable regression, but not a temporary remission!