Cancers are masters of disguise, cloaking themselves in ways that make them notoriously difficult to treat. One method used is to disguise themselves as their hosts, with which they share much of their biology. Not only does this similarity make cancers exceedingly difficult to target without harming host tissue, it also means that tumors can often live and grow with little opposition from their hosts’ biochemical defenses.
Within cancer research, the emerging field of Immuno-Oncology (I-O) offers a new way to deal with these two longstanding problems. But what is immuno-oncology? It’s a research approach which harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Rather than targeting the cancer cell directly, immuno-oncology—also known as cancer immunotherapy—studies ways to turn the host’s body against it. It’s also important to make the distinction that immunotherapy can be used to treat multiple diseases that stimulate the immune response, which not only includes cancer but cardiovascular, infectious and neurodegenerative diseases as well. This blog post series will cover specifically cancer immunotherapy.
Cancers originate within the bodies of their victims. But contrary to popular misconception, this does not render a cancer invisible to its host’s immune system. In fact, many precancerous events do get destroyed by the immune system early on. The ones that last long enough to become cancers do so because they evade and manipulate the host’s tissues for long enough to establish themselves.
Older cancer treatments, such as radiation, drugs that target blood vessel growth, and chemotherapy, attack the processes that cancers use to sustain themselves. Unfortunately, these processes are also used by healthy bodies for regular functions, so cancer treatment is difficult to endure. Immuno-oncology research represents a potentially massive step forward for future treatments that are more targeted: the ability to induce an immune response specific to a patient host’s own cancer, with the same swift efficacy and comparative safety that a body can bring to bear against harmful invaders.
Thus, the potential of Immuno-Oncology can uncover ways to enable immunogenicity of all types of cancer and facilitate long-lasting, protective immunity against future recurrence [1-3]. Recent breakthroughs in Checkpoint Inhibition, CAR T Cell Therapy and Cancer Vaccines illuminate the full capabilities of the immune system and how it may be harnessed to combat cancer. Consider the impact of a targeted immuno-oncology therapy – it carries promise in how we approach and treat cancer.
Curious about immuno-oncology therapy in the fight against cancer? Stay tuned for more posts on I-O or visit www.thermofisher.com/immunooncology.
For Research Use Only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.
- Corrigan-Curay J, Kiem HP, Baltimore D et al. (2014) T-cell immunotherapy: looking forward. Mol Ther 22:1564-1574.
- Grupp SA, Kalos M, Barrett D et al. (2013) Chimeric antigen receptor–modified T cells for acute lymphoid leukemia. N Eng J Med 368:1506-1518.
- Batlevi CL, Matsuki E, Brentjens RJ et al. (2016) Novel immunotherapies in lymphoid malignancies. Nat Rev Clin Oncol 13:25-40.