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Immunotherapy – Stimulating the Body's Natural Defense Against Cancer

Jump-starting the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in medical oncology.

“The dream of oncology has been to harness the immune system and figure out why it hasn’t responded to cancer cells,” said Barry Boyd, MD, a medical oncologist at Greenwich Hospital. “New immunotherapy treatments are now able to induce the immune system to attack these mutant cells when they otherwise wouldn’t.”

Two types of cancer proving to be most responsive to immunotherapy treatment are melanoma skin cancers and advanced lung cancers, particularly lung cancers caused by smoking, although some nonsmokers may also respond to immunotherapy.

“We’re finding that when delivered intravenously either alone or concurrently with chemotherapy, immunotherapy treatment will allow many patients to experience more sustained treatment responses. This is different from chemotherapy alone, where patients may be more likely to develop a resistance to these drugs,” said Dr. Boyd.

While immunotherapy alone has not shown consistent capability of destroying cancer cells completely, in many cases the tumors become minimally active, allowing a person to live a longer time without disease progression. This represents an important paradigm change in cancer therapy.