Immunotherapy (also called biologic therapy, biological response modifier therapy, or biotherapy) uses the body's immune system to fight cancer. The cells, antibodies, and organs of the immune system work to protect and defend the body against foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses. Doctors and researchers have found that the immune system might also be able to fight the cancer cells.
Immunotherapies are designed to boost the immune system, either directly or indirectly, by assisting the immune system to:
- Stop, control, or suppress the processes that allow cancers to grow.
- Make cancer cells more recognizable by the immune system, and, therefore, more susceptible to destruction by the immune system.
- Boost the killing power of immune system cells.
- Change the way cancer cells grow so that they act more like healthy cells.
- Stop the process that changes a normal cell into a cancerous cell.
- Enhance the body's ability to repair or replace normal cells damaged or destroyed by other forms of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation.
- Prevent cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body.
Immunotherapies can be used alone to treat cancer or can be combined with other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.