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Immunotherapy:A New Ray of Hope for Cancer Patients

A life-saving procedure for cancer patients that has surfaced in the world of medicine is immunotherapy. It is a kind of therapy that can boost the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. Read on to know more.

Cancer By Vasudha Bhat / Nov 11, 2014

What is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment which can boost the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. The therapy uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target or restore immune system function. There are some types of immunotherapy which include monoclonal antibodies, non-specific immunotherapies and cancer vaccines. Let’s have a look at them in detail.

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Monoclonal Antibodies

When antigens like bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites are detected by a body’s immune system it starts producing antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are produced in a laboratory and when given to the patients, they start acting like antibodies. There are certain goals which should be achieved when monoclonal antibodies are attached to a cancer cell. Those goals are:

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To Let the Immune System Destroy Cancer Cells

It is not necessary that the immune system identifies cancer cells as being harmful. To make the immune system find and destroy cancer cells, a monoclonal antibody marks them by attaching to specific parts of cancer cells which cannot be found on healthy cells.

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To Prevent Cancer Cells from Growing

Some of the cancer cells are able to make extra copies of growth factor receptor, which can help the cancer cells to multiply faster. Monoclonal antibodies are responsible for blocking these receptors and prevent growth.

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Non-specific Immunotherapies

Just like monoclonal antibodies, non-specific immunotherapies also help the immune system in destroying cancer cells. Mostly, non-specific immunotherapies are given when along with other cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy. There two common non-specific immunotherapies.

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This type of non-specific immunotherapy helps the immune system in fighting cancer and slow down the growth of cancer cells. When an interferon is made in a laboratory, it is called interferon alpha, Intron, Alferon and are the most common type of interferon used in cancer treatment.

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Interleukins help the immune system to produce cells that can destroy cancer. An interleukin made in a laboratory is called interleukin-2, IL-2, or aldesleukin (Proleukin) and is used to cure kidney cancer and skin cancer.

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Cancer Vaccine

Cancer vaccine can expose the immune system to a protein (antigen) that can make it recognize and destroy that protein or related material.

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