Immunotherapy, also known as biological therapy or biotherapy, uses the body's immune system to fight diseases such as cancer.
The immune system attacks new substances in the body, including cancer cells that are slightly different from normal cells in the body. Sometimes the difference is so small the immune system doesn’t recognize the cancer cell as being new. Other times, the immune system simply isn’t strong enough to destroy the cancer cells. Because of this, the immune system can’t fight cancer on its own.
Immunotherapy works by either boosting the immune system in a general way or by training the immune system to attack specific parts of the cancer cells. Here are three types of immunotherapy:
- Monoclonal antibodies: Man-made proteins that are designed to attack a very specific part of the cancer cell
- Cancer vaccines: Start an immune response against disease
- Non-specific immunotherapies: These treatments boost the immune system in a general way