A cancer cell (white) being attacked by immune cells (red).
Picture: National Institute of Health.
Immunotherapy consists of several methods that spur on white blood cells to attack cancer cells. This can be done by checkpoint inhibitors, dendritic cell therapy and chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy.
- ipilimumab (Bristol-Myers Squibb): lung cancer and melanoma (clinical trials for use in other cancers are going on)
- nivolumab (Bristol-Myers Squibb): lung cancer, ...
- pembrolizumab (Merck): melanoma (initially), lung cancer, ...
- avelumab (Merck KGaA, Pfizer): lung cancer, ...
- durvalumab (AstraZeneca/MedImmune): lung cancer, ...
- tremelimumab (AstraZeneca/MedImmune): lung cancer
- atezolizumab (Genentech/Roche): lung cancer, bladder cancer, ...
Dendritic cell vaccines
Chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T cell) therapy
Even more promising therapies on the horizon?
Scientists can use CRISPR-cas 9 to rewrite the DNA of white blood cells so that these modified white blood cells don't express checkpoint detector proteins (making them unable to be deactivated by cancer cells) and are equipped with chimeric antigen receptors that recognize tumor pieces (tumor antigens).
This would make these white blood cells very powerful to destroy cancer cells. Perhaps too powerful. There is the risk that these modified cells could unrestrainedly attack non-tumor tissue, like the gut or adrenal glands, precipitating an auto-immune reaction. However, studies with animals and humans show that these side effects can be mitigated or avoided.
Author: Dr. Kris Verburgh