Culture, Health, Science

Immunotherapy – The Promising New Frontier In Cancer Treatment

Nmesoma Okwudili


July 11, 2023

Cancer has been a major global health concern for decades, affecting millions of people globally. Traditional cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, have produced significant improvements in patient outcomes. However, these methods frequently have debilitating side effects and are ineffective in advanced stages of the disease. With the advent of immunotherapy in recent years, cancer treatment has undergone a paradigm shift. This novel strategy uses the immune system’s power to combat cancer cells.

Immunotherapy, commonly referred to as biologic therapy, is a type of medication that makes use of the immune system to identify, hunt down, and eradicate cancer cells. Immunotherapy, in contrast to conventional therapies, promotes the immune system to improve its inherent capacity to combat cancer. T cells, B cells, and natural killer cells are a few of the different immune system’s components that cooperate to protect the body against illnesses and infections.

The development and introduction of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) is one of the most important developments in immunotherapy. immunological cells have molecules called immunological checkpoints that function as “brakes” to stop overactive immune reactions. Cancer cells, however, can take advantage of these checkpoints to avoid immune monitoring. By disabling these checkpoints, ICIs help the immune system better identify and combat cancer cells. Numerous cancers, including melanoma, lung cancer, and bladder cancer, have responded remarkably well to medications like pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo).

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell treatment is yet another innovative method of immunotherapy. In this individualised therapy, the patient’s own T cells are genetically altered to express CARs, which are artificial receptors that target particular tumour antigens. Impressive results from CAR T-cell treatment have been seen in cases of leukemia and lymphoma, two blood malignancies. Tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah) and axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta), two FDA-approved CAR T-cell treatments, have demonstrated exceptional success in treating paediatric and young adult patients with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Another potential area of immunotherapy is cancer vaccinations. Cancer vaccines aim to activate the immune system to recognise and combat cancer cells, in contrast to conventional vaccines that seek to prevent viral or bacterial diseases. Cancer vaccines come in two different forms: preventative vaccinations and therapeutic vaccines. Infections that may result in some cancers can be avoided with the help of preventive vaccines, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Therapeutic vaccinations, on the other hand, aim to specifically target antigens expressed by cancer cells in order to treat pre-existing cancer. Cancer vaccines have a great deal of potential for both preventing and treating a variety of cancers, despite the fact that they are still in the early phases of development.

Immunotherapy has proven to be remarkably effective in treating some tumours, although not all patients benefit from it. To fully realise its potential, numerous obstacles still need to be overcome. Finding biomarkers that can forecast a patient’s response to immunotherapy is a difficulty. Biomarkers that can predict whether an immune checkpoint inhibitor will work well include PD-L1 expression, tumour mutational load, and microsatellite instability. In order to increase response rates, researchers are also looking into combination therapies, which combine immunotherapy with other forms of treatment including chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

The future of immunotherapy for cancer treatment looks promising. Researchers are continuously exploring novel strategies to enhance the efficacy of immunotherapy and overcome the challenges associated with it. 

  1. Precision Medicine: Advancements in genomics and molecular profiling are enabling the identification of specific genetic alterations and biomarkers associated with different cancer types. This information can help tailor immunotherapy treatments to individual patients, increasing the likelihood of a positive response.
  1. Combination Therapies: Extensive research is being done on immunotherapies that combine other immunotherapies or combine immunotherapy with other treatment techniques. This strategy targets several immunological pathways at once in an effort to strengthen the immune response. For instance, using immune checkpoint inhibitors in conjunction with CAR T-cell therapy or cancer vaccines may produce stronger and longer-lasting effects.
  1. Overcoming Resistance: Despite the amazing effectiveness of immunotherapy, some patients eventually develop resistance. Researchers are continuously investigating ways to overcome resistance as well as the mechanisms that cause it. New therapeutic targets can be found and treatment plans can be customised by comprehending the underlying biology.
  1. Targeting Solid Tumours: Compared to treating solid tumours, immunotherapy has been more effective against blood malignancies. Solid tumours have particular difficulties since they have a hostile tumour microenvironment and little T-cell infiltration. The total immune response to solid tumors is being improved by finding techniques to increase T-cell penetration into them.
  1. Creation of Novel Immunotherapies: As the area of immunotherapy quickly develops, researchers are creating novel immunotherapies. These include immune agonists that encourage immune cells to mount a more potent attack against cancer as well as bispecific antibodies that can simultaneously target cancer cells and activate immune cells.

When it comes to cancer treatment, immunotherapy has ushered in a new era and given patients new options. Immune checkpoint inhibitors, CAR T-cell therapy, and cancer vaccines have made significant strides in the treatment of numerous malignancies. Nevertheless, there are still issues to be resolved, such as finding prognostic biomarkers, dealing with resistance, and enhancing efficacy in solid tumours. Precision medicine, combination therapies, and the creation of new immunotherapies are what will shape immunotherapy in the future. Immunotherapy has the potential to revolutionise cancer treatment and enhance patient outcomes with sustained research and innovation, opening the way for a more promising future in the battle against cancer.


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