Important to Know:
- Researchers have known for many years that our immune systems do
recognize and attack cancer cells.
- Cancer cells, however, often escape or shut down the immune system
- The progress being made today in immunotherapy is the result of
new understanding about the complex interaction between the immune system and
The immune system is surveying
the body: ‘that looks normal, that looks abnormal—let’s eliminate it.'
Researchers have been interested
in using the body’s natural defense system to fight cancer for over 100 years,
but the progress in the last decade has been rapid and exciting, producing new
approaches with promising results for an increasing number of cancer types.
In that sense, immunotherapy is a
new and emerging area of cancer treatment. Common terms you will see as you
The Immune System: Your body’s defense system
against disease. Its job is to prevent or limit infections by recognizing and
destroying foreign substances (like bacteria and viruses) and abnormal or
unhealthy cells (like cancer cells).
Immuno-oncology: The field of cancer research
that works to understand the immune system and how it interacts with
cancers--and finds ways of using your body’s immune system to treat or prevent
Immunotherapy: A type of treatment that uses the immune
system to treat cancer as well as other diseases.
Immune modulation: The adjustment of the immune
system to respond to a specific situation. This can apply both to activating or
suppressing the immune response.
Immune Surveillance: The body’s way of detecting and
recognizing abnormal or unhealthy cells and responding to them.
Updated August 12, 2014
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