Immunotherapy, based on research done by Nobel prize winner Dr. James P Allison, is one of the newest forms of cancer treatment.
The immune system is the body’s defense mechanism. When the this system recognizes disease or infection, it’s normal response is to attack the disease. Unfortunately, if the immune system cannot recognize that tissue is diseased, it doesn’t react, and the disease is able to flourish.
Dr. Allison’s research revealed that, in some cases, cancer is able to use a particular protein to mask itself as healthy tissue. Since the immune system can’t “see” the cancer, it is able to grow, unchecked.
Once this discovery was made, it paved the way for the development of immunotherapy. With immunotherapy, oncologists are able to attack the cancer’s ability to “hide” from the immune system. Once the immune system “sees” the cancer, it is able to attack it.
Immunotherapy doesn’t work against all forms of cancer, but it is particularly effective against melanoma and lung cancer, two types of cancer that have traditionally been very resistant to treatment. It can also be used against other forms of cancer.
Immunotherapy is just one of the cutting edge cancer treatments available at the RMH Sheehan Cancer Center.