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What is Immunotherapy?

What is Immunotherapy or Immuno-Oncology? 

Steven K. Libutti, MD, FACS, director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and senior vice president oncology services, RWJBarnabas Health, appeared on "One on One with Steve Adubato" along with Barry Ostrowsky, President and CEO of RWJBarnabas Health, and discussed immunotherapy in cancer treatment. Watch here

Video courtesy of One-on-One with Steve Adubato. (Air date 02/05/20)

Immunotherapy, or immuno-oncology, is a type of treatment that uses a person’s own immune system to fight cancer.

Your immune system is what helps your body fight off infections and other diseases. It is typically able to differentiate between healthy cells and harmful substances, and knows to attack the abnormal cells

However, because cancer cells develop from normal, healthy cells, sometimes your immune system is not able to spot them or recognize them as a threat. Some cancer cells have genetic changes that make them less visible to the immune system, while others have specific proteins on the surface of the cell to turn off immune cells.

Immunotherapy was developed as a way to help your immune system fight back against cancer cells.
 

Types of Immunotherapy

Immune checkpoint inhibitors target certain proteins that interfere with the immune system and keep it from working properly. These checkpoints are a normal part of the immune system and keep immune responses from being too strong where they might destroy healthy cells in the body. This class of drugs helps the body's natural defenses get back to work in attacking the cancer. 

CAR T-Cell Therapy is a treatment that boosts the natural ability of your T cells to fight cancer. Doctors extract T cells (a type of white blood cell) from the patient’s blood and add a special receptor called a “chimeric antigen receptor” (CAR) in the laboratory. The receptor enables the modified cells to produce chemicals that kill cancer. These reengineered CAR T-cells are then reinjected into the patient through infusion and the cells begin multiplying and attacking the cancer cells throughout the body.

Monoclonal antibodies are immune system proteins created in the lab that are designed to bind to specific targets on cancer cells. Some monoclonal antibodies mark cancer cells so that they will be better seen and destroyed by the immune system. Such monoclonal antibodies are a type of immunotherapy. Monoclonal antibodies may also be called therapeutic antibodies.

Treatment vaccines work against cancer by boosting your immune system’s response to cancer cells. Treatment vaccines are different from the ones that help prevent disease.

Immune system modulators enhance the body’s immune response against cancer. Some of these agents affect specific parts of the immune system, whereas others affect the immune system in a more general way.

Steven K. Libutti, MD, FACS, director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and senior vice president oncology services, RWJBarnabas Health, appeared on "One on One with Steve Adubato" along with Barry Ostrowsky, President and CEO of RWJBarnabas Health, and discussed the Rutgers Cancer Institute initiative studying cancer metabolism. Watch here

Video courtesy of One-on-One with Steve Adubato. (Air date 02/05/20)


Immunotherapy Clinical Trials

Find active immunotherapy clinical trials here.


Additional Reading

Cancer Immunotherapy Links
Exploring Immunotherapy for Carcinoid and Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors
Inside A New Melanoma Immunotherapy Trial
Fighting Advanced Thyroid Cancer with Immunotherapy
Exploring Immunotherapy in Small Cell Lung Cancer
Exploring Clinical Activity of an Immunotherapy Drug that Targets Lymphomas
Immunotherapy Response Helps Identify Potential Cancer Treatment Path for those with POLE Mutation

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