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Cancer Immunotherapy

Cancer Immunotherapy relies on use of the patients own immune system to fight the cancer. It is now clear that one step in the process of cancer development involves loss of efficient immune control, leading to tumor immune escape mechanisms with subsequent uncontrolled tumor progression.

Immunotherapeutic strategies that are now clinically used includes:

  • One of the most promising new therapeutic strategies belong to the class of "Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors"; counting Ipilimumab (anti CTLA-4), Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab (anti-PD1Receptor) and Alezolizumab (anti PDL-1) all targeting the immune escape mechanisms by interfering with immune blocking receptors.
  • Systemic administration of cytokines eg. Proleukin®, (IL-2) and Intron®A (Interferon), used today as adjuvant therapies combined with chemotherapy. However, systemic administration of these cytokines cause severe toxicity and must be administered multiple times at low dose.
  • Autologous cell therapy like eg. Provenge®, where the patients own immune cells are removed from the patient and activated in vitro, and subsequently injected back into the patient.
  • Therapeutic antibodies have improved treatment and survival significantly, by targeting tumor associated or growth promoting factors. These antibodies activate the patients immune system to attack tumor cells or prevent further tumor growth, e.g. Avastin®, Erbitux® and Herceptin®. These three drugs are among the top 10 selling anti-cancer drugs today with annual sales approaching 5 billion US$.
  • Cancer vaccines to activate the patients immune system to recognize tumor antigens expressed by tumor cells.
  • The Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) technology currently in clinical trials.

A major challenge for efficient cancer treatment is recognized by the fact, that tumor cells express molecules which prevents the immune system from efficiently fighting the tumor, termed immune escape. Today more than 100 clinical trials are ongoing testing drugs with the potential ability to block tumor immune escape, and most of these drugs are tested in combination with other treatments like systemic cytokines, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.