Immunotherapy cancer research progressing
Our immune system has the ability to find and destroy cancer cells.
But cancer cells can sometimes hide from the immune system and avoid being destroyed.
Cancer cells may also stop the immune system from working properly. Immunotherapy helps to strengthen or restore the immune system’s ability to fight cancer.
How immunotherapy works
The immune system defends and protects our bodies from infection and disease. It’s made up of organs, special cells and substances that work together to find and fight germs such as viruses or bacteria or abnormal or unhealthy cells that cause disease such as cancer.
Germs and cancer cells have molecules on their surface that trigger the immune system to find and destroy them. But some cancer cells can hide from the immune system because they look a lot like normal cells. In some cases, the immune system may find cancer cells, but it isn’t strong enough to destroy all of them. And some cancer cells can even change how the immune system responds so it doesn’t work properly.
Immunotherapy boosts the immune system or helps the immune system to find cancer and attack it. Immunotherapy is used to:
- stop or slow the growth of cancer
- stop cancer from spreading to other parts of the body
- help the immune system work better to destroy cancer cells
- deliver toxins, such as radiation or chemotherapy, directly to cancer cells
The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) funds a number of researchers who study immunotherapy.
Dr Réjean Lapointe from the Centre de recherche du CHUM in Quebec is developing a gel to improve immunotherapy.
Dr Lapointe and his team developed a gel to target and release cancer-fighting immune cells at just the right spot. Further developments could greatly benefit people with cancer.
Dr John Bell from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute is studying how cancer-killing viruses attack tumour blood vessels. With his team, Dr Bell showed that a tumour’s overproduction of a certain protein can allow oncolytic viruses to infect and destroy the tumour’s blood cells. The levels of this protein may help predict which patients will respond better to therapy with oncolytic viruses.
For more information on immunotherapy or other cancer therapies, please call our Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333
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This article is sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society and is for information purposes only.
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