Immunotherapy is an anti-cancer treatment based on harnessing our own immune system to attack cancer cells.
What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy (or immune-therapy) is now becoming a front-line treatment for many tumour types and recently highlighted by the award of the Nobel Prize to Prof. A. Allison and Prof. Honjo who pioneered this new approach to treatment.
At this point, the question arises:
Why is there a need for therapy if the bodies own immune cells can kill cancer cells?
Here is why and how it works.
How does Immunotherapy work?
The development of cancer is associated with the acquisition of DNA mutations which also results in the expression of mutated proteins on the surface of cancer cells called neoantigens. Neoantigens are recognised by the body as foreign leading to an attack on the cancer cells by the patient’s own immune cells. However some cancers stop this attack by expressing a protein on their surface called PD-L1 which shields the cancer cells from the immune cells. Anti-PD-L1/PD-1 immunotherapy strips this PD-L1 shield away enabling the immune cells to attack the cancer cells.
Who can undergo Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy doesn’t work for everyone: in some patients it appears to work incredibility well, completely destroying tumours even after they have begun to spread around the body, but for other patients the response can be less dramatic. Oncologica now conducts a series of tests which helps identify those patients most likely to benefit from immunotherapy. The Immunofocus PD-L1 test measures the levels of PD-L1 expressed on the surface of tumour cells. The Immunofocus TMB and Immunofocus MMR tests provide an assessment of DNA mutations and associated neoantigens. Patients who score positive in these three tests are strong candidates for immunotherapy.
Immunofocus testing platforms enable patients to be identified who may benefit from this type of treatment.
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