Cancer Immunotherapy

By understanding cancer biology and how the immune system works, cancer immunotherapies have been developed. The goal of these therapies is to help the immune system recognise and attack cancer cells. Immunotherapies do this in different ways: Some override mechanisms that prevent T cells from triggering an immune response, while others try to directly stimulate an immune response.

Cancer immunobiology is a very complex science, but scientists are getting a better understanding of the interaction of cancer with the immune system and the biology of cancer. As a result, we are gaining knowledge about which tumour types are eligible for the use of cancer immunotherapy and who can particularly benefit from this new/innovative therapeutic approach.

Cancer immunotherapy is an exciting and ever-expanding therapeutic option. Existing immunotherapies have already revolutionised cancer treatments. This growing knowledge of immunobiology and how we can strengthen and support the body's own immune system in fighting cancer is cause for optimism now and in the near future.

How does our immune system fight a cancer cell

A tumour can only form in the body if the immune system does not recognise the degenerated cell as a potential danger and does not attack it. This explains the cancer immunity cycle.
In the first step, mutations in cancer cells release proteins called cancer antigens. These enable the immune system to recognise them.
Now immune cells specialised in finding antigens are transported to T cells in the lymph nodes. Immunotherapy can strengthen immunity in this and other steps.
Now it is crucial whether the T cell recognises the cancer antigens as a danger. If this is the case, then they are activated by these foreign antigens and the immune reaction against the cancer cells begins.
The T cells multiply and migrate through the blood vessels to the tumour.
T cells reach the cancer cells and invade the tumour to attack it.
T cells can recognise cancer cells by their released antigens.
T cells destroy cancer cells by triggering a signalling chain that ultimately leads to cell death. This releases more antigens and the cancer-immunity cycle begins again.

The immune system's job is to recognise and destroy anything foreign or abnormal in our bodies, including cancer cells. Cancer cells develop when normal cells change into malignant cells. These changes are called mutations. Normally, the immune system can detect these often subtle changes and thus eliminate cancer cells by using T-cells to seek out and kill these potential threats. However, when this natural surveillance system is defective, these altered cells can evade the immune response, allowing them to develop into potentially harmful tumours.

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