This is the second post of the three-part blog series on immunotherapy. If you haven’t read our introductory post on immunotherapy, it can be found here.
Immunotherapy can work in two ways:
1.By boosting the immune response
2.By helping the immune system identify and fight cancer cells
In this post, we’ll address how immunotherapy may help boost the body’s immune response. This approach uses drugs/agents to trigger or stimulate the immune system to react to the invader – in this case, the cancer cells. This is similar to how a cold virus would stimulate your immune system.
There are a few different ways to stimulate the immune system.
Cytokines are proteins in the body that stimulate the growth of white blood cells and help to activate other immune cells. Cytokines are typically naturally occurring and are released by immune cells. Cytokines are important for communication between cells and can trigger a response to infection or invasion. In a small percentage of patients with melanoma and kidney cancer, a high dose of cytokines have produced an excellent response to fight the cancer.
In multiple myeloma, there are several antibodies that are being studied that block or stimulate cytokine pathways, including siltuximab and ALT-803.
Therapeutic vaccines are designed to boost the body’s natural ability to protect itself by triggering an immune response against the cancer cells. One therapeutic vaccine has already been approved for the treatment of prostate cancer, and many more vaccines for cancer are being studied in clinical trials.
There are several clinical trials studying vaccines in multiple myeloma patients who are near complete remission, have smoldering myeloma, or are undergoing autologous stem cell transplantation.
Adoptive T-cells are created by a process in which T-cells are taken from the patient’s blood and altered to contain chimeric antigen receptors (CARS), which are proteins that allow T-cells to recognize cancer cells. Once the T-cells are returned to the patient, they will identify and attack cancer cells, leaving other cells alone.
Several trials of adoptive T-cells are underway in multiple myeloma, including a Phase I to study CD19 and a Phase I/II to study NY-ESO 1 antigen.
Many drugs and agents are currently being studied to determine if they produce a boost in the immune system.
In our final blog post of the series, we will address how immunotherapies may be able to help the immune system identify cancer cells and attack.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, would like to know more about immunotherapy clinical trials, or to find out if you are eligible to participate in a trial, please call our nurse hotline at 1-866-603-6628.