Treatment Of Cancer By Stimulating Immune Cells

Once you’ve generated T cells that can recognize cancer, you’ve got them basically for the rest of your life.

By Laiba Patrick and Zoe Nadeem


Your immune system is composed of different organs and cells that play a role in protecting you from different harmful diseases. Immune cells are responsible for protecting you again different germs and it also helps you to protect from cancer cells somehow. Cancer remains a major cause of death worldwide, and, with an aging population, its annual toll of 8.2 million is only expected to increase. Cancer-associated inflammation, which is present at different stages of tumorigenesis, contributes to genomic instability, epigenetic modification, induction of cancer cell proliferation, enhancement of cancer anti-apoptotic pathways, stimulation of angiogenesis, and, eventually, cancer dissemination.


Immunology is a treatment that is used to treat a person’s immune system to fight against cancer.

  • By stimulating the immune system natural defense mechanism so then it will work harder to kill the cancer cells present in the body.
  • By making different substances in laboratory so that they can take part in killing the cancer cells.

In the past few decades immune therapy has become important part to treat cancer. New immunotherapy treatments are discovered these days and new techniques are being adopted.

Immunotherapy is important for some types of cancers, however it is widely being used in treatment of some cancers but it is important for the treatment of other diseases as well.

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The immune system keeps track of all the substances found in the body. The immune system has tough time when it starts targeting the cancer cells. This is because when cancer starts in a person’s body the normal cells alter and change themselves and start growing more than the need and become out of control because cancer cells always start as normal cells and the immune system doesn’t recognize them as foreign.

So there are limits in the immune system to fight cancer on its own, because there are still many people who have healthy and strong immune system but can still develop cancer in their body.

  • There are some time when immune system doesn’t recognize the cancer cell and it thinks they are not foreign because the cancer cells look alike the normal cell.
  • But there are sometimes when the immune system recognizes the cancer cells but are the response against the cancer cells are not strong enough to kill all the cancer cells and destroy them completely.
  • Cancer cells themselves can also give off substances that keep the immune system from finding and attacking them.

To overcome this, the researchers have found many ways to help the immune system recognize cancer cells and strengthen its response so that it will destroy them. In this way your own body is actually getting rid of cancer, with some help from science.


James Allison, Ph.D., knows his T cells. For the past 30 years, he’s studied them inside and out, learning what makes them run and hum. From his laboratory have emerged some of the most important discoveries in immunology.

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treatment of cancer

In the early 1980s, Allison was one of the first to identify the T cell receptor—the part of a T cell that binds to antigen and functions as the T cell’s ignition switch. A few years later, in 1992, he showed that a molecule called CD28 functions as the T cell’s gas pedal. Then, in 1995, when no one else was even thinking there would be such a thing, he identified the T cell’s brakes, in the process opening up a whole new vista in cancer treatment.

What’s the advantage of immunotherapy over other cancer therapies?

Dr. Allison: It’s compelling to think of the immune system in cancer for three reasons. One is the incredible specificity of the immune system. Because cancer cells have distinct targets, the immune system can target those cancer cells specifically, and with very few of the side effects normally associated with conventional drugs.

The second one is that the immune system can adapt as the tumor changes. The immune system, if you keep stimulating it in the proper way, can change as the tumor changes. 

The third one is that you can get memory and that’s the hallmark of the immune system that doesn’t exist for any other type of cancer therapy. Once you’ve generated T cells that can recognize cancer, you’ve got them basically for the rest of your life. Whereas with every other drug, they kill a bunch of tumor cells and then the drugs go away.

Also, you won’t find the phenomenon of resistance with immune-based therapies. If the tumor comes back, you can treat it anti-CTLA-4 again, and again, and again. It never quits working.

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There are several types of immunotherapy that are used to treat cancer:

  • Checkpoint inhibitors:

These drugs basically take off the “brakes” of immune system, and then this drug helps the immune system to recognize the cancer cells.


  • Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy:

This therapy takes the T-cells from a patient’s blood, mixes them with a special virus that makes the T-cells learn how to attach to tumor cells, and then gives the cells back to the patient so they can find, attach to, and kill the cancer.

  • Cytokines:

Cytokines are the small proteins that carry messages between cells, so this treatment uses cytokines to stimulate the immune cells to attack cancer.


  • Immunomodulators:

This group of drugs boosts certain parts of immune system to fight against certain cancers.

  • Cancer vaccines:

We use vaccines to start an immune response against certain diseases. We usually think of them as being given to healthy people to help prevent infections. But some vaccines can help prevent or treat cancer.

  • Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs or MoAbs):

These are proteins that are manmade version of immune system. mAbs can be very useful in treating cancer because they can be designed to attack a very specific part of a cancer cells.

  • Oncolytic viruses:


This treatment uses that have been modified in a lab to infect and kill certain tumor cells.


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