Several kinds of immunotherapy are approved to help your body fight a number of cancers. Some are used by themselves, while others you get along with other treatments.
Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors and Cytokines
Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is one of the most common kinds of cancer that doctors treat with immunotherapy. In some cases, they use immune checkpoint inhibitors, which affect a kind of white blood cell called T cells that attack disease.
Your immune system makes proteins that are meant to help control your body’s immune response. But these proteins can keep T cells from fighting cancer cells. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that block these proteins and free up T cells for attack.
Doctors also use chemicals called cytokines to treat melanoma. These chemicals, called interferon and interleukin, act as messengers that give your immune system instructions. Interleukins boost the growth of immune cells and make them divide faster, while interferons tell immune cells to stop some cancer cells from reproducing.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors can also be used against:
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Head and neck cancer
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Non-small-cell lung cancer
Interleukins and interferons can be used against kidney cancer. Interferons have also been approved to treat:
- Two types of leukemia (hairy cell leukemia and chronic myelogenous leukemia)
- Two types of lymphoma (follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma)
- Kaposi's sarcoma
These mark cancer cells for attack by the immune system. Doctors use them to target:
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Colorectal cancer
- Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Stomach cancer
CAR T-Cell Therapy
With this type of immunotherapy, doctors “reprogram” your white blood cells and use them to target the cancer. So far, it’s been approved to treat only two kinds:
- Large B-cell lymphomas
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
These can help protect you from two viruses that have been linked to certain kinds of cancer:
- Human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause cancers of the genitals, cervix, anus, and throat
- Hepatitis B, which can lead to liver cancer
- Another vaccine can help fight a kind of prostate cancer in men.