Cancer immunotherapy has proven to be a breakthrough development in the previous two decades, ushering in a new era in cancer treatment. It has significantly increased survival rates in solid organ tumours, particularly in advanced stages. Over the last five years, a plethora of immunotherapy medications with varying potency has become accessible, allowing us cancer specialists to extend durable survival to a large number, if not all, of cancer patients. The human immune system is still too complex for researchers to fully comprehend in order to reach the greater objective of entirely curing cancer. Immune checkpoint inhibitors have become the most popular type of immunotherapy medicine among cancer-treating physicians, surpassing cancer vaccines and immunomodulatory therapies.
What exactly is immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is a novel type of cancer treatment that stimulates cancer patients’ immune systems to work harder and smarter to help the body detect and eliminate cancer cells. These are laboratory-created compounds that imitate immune system components in the body and work by repairing and improving how the immune system fights cancer. Immunotherapy can be used alone or in conjunction with other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
How does our immune system function?
The human immune system is a collection of organs and specific cells that work together to protect the body from infections, invading pathogens, and disease. The immune system also aids in the prevention of cancer cell production and the destruction of cancer cells.
As a natural process, the body produces aberrant cells.
The immune system detects foreign chemicals or those that the immune system does not recognize and mounts an attack on them. For example, the immune system considers unique proteins of foreign germs/diseases to be foreign and thus assaults such proteins.
Cancer and Immune Evasion-
Because cancer cells are derived from normal bodily cells, the immune system does not always recognize them as foreign/undesired substances, allowing cancer cells to evade immune attacks. Cancer arises in healthy people with healthy immune systems as a result of immune system limits.
There are three possible reasons why cancer cells evade the body’s immune system:
– Cancer cells may be too similar to normal body cells for the immune system to recognize and destroy.
– If an immune response to cancer cells is activated, it may be insufficiently robust or efficient to eliminate cancer cells.
– Cancer cells can produce chemicals that hinder the immune system from attacking cancer cells.
Immunotherapy for cancer treatment is based on this. Researchers have devised solutions to these problems. Immunotherapy assists the body in identifying cancer cells as an initial response and eventually forming an attack powerful enough to eradicate cancer cells.
Immune Checkpoint Blockers
These are antibody medicines that stimulate the body’s natural immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells. These are the most recent advancements in the field of Cancer Immunotherapy, and the treatment has shown promising outcomes in cancer patients. Other treatments, such as CAR-T cell therapy, are not commonly used in India as of yet. Immunotherapy will be the future of cancer treatment, and researchers are working hard to provide promising results with these medicines.