Immunotherapy is the most promising new cancer treatment since the development of chemotherapy in the late 1940s.
Recently, there have been a surge of new immune-based therapies, changing the landscape of how some of the more deadly cancers are being treated. With this aim, we’re funding several immunotherapy projects.
Cancer immunotherapy refers to the use of treatments that harness and enhance the natural powers of the immune system to fight cancer. The immune system is our first line of defence against cancer; immune cells patrol the body on the look out for cells that are not normal, such as bacteria, viruses and cancer cells, and try to destroy them.
Unfortunately, cancer is adept at bypassing the immune system. It can do this by impeding the immune system, to prevent an immune response, or by simply evading detection since cancer cells are recognised as ‘self’ rather than as foreign.
Immunotherapy represents the most promising new cancer treatment approach since the development of the first chemotherapies in the late 1940s. It uses substances that naturally occur in the body to boost the functioning of the immune system. As a result, the body is able to destroy cancer cells more effectively, and with fewer side-effects than chemotherapy drugs.
Bone marrow transplant, often used in the treatment of children with leukaemia, is itself a form of immunotherapy as the donated immune cells help effect cure by attacking the patient’s remaining leukaemic cells – an effect known as “graft versus leukaemia”.
The last five years have seen a surge of new immune-based therapies that are changing the landscape of how children with some of the more deadly cancers are treated.