Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that promotes or supports your immune system's (infection-fighting system's) response to a disease such as cancer.

Key points to remember about immunotherapy

This page is part of a whole section about childhood cancer.

  • immunotherapy uses the body's immune system to fight cancer cells
  • immunotherapy treatments are increasing in number and effectiveness in some cancers
  • it is best to see immunotherapy treatments as an addition to proven surgical, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments
  • they can have unwanted side effects, just as with other forms of cancer treatment

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that promotes or supports your immune system's (infection-fighting system's) response to a disease such as cancer.

How does immunotherapy work?

Immunotherapy uses the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. The immune system is a network of organs, cells and circulating proteins that work to protect the body against disease. The immune system looks for cells that are not normal and tries to destroy them. Immunotherapy can help the immune cells find cancer cells and destroy them.

What are the different types of immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy includes treatments that work in different ways. Some boost the body's immune system in a very general way. Others help train the immune system to attack specific cancer cells.

There are several types of immunotherapy, including:

For more information about each type of immunotherapy, see the National Cancer Institute (USA) website.

  • immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • T-cell transfer therapy
  • monoclonal antibodies
  • cancer vaccines
  • immune system enhancers

How effective are immunotherapy treatments?

Read more about childhood cancer treatments.

Immunotherapy treatments are increasing in number and effectiveness in some cancers. But, it is best to see them as an addition to proven surgical, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. Because they change the body's own immune system, they can have unwanted side effects, just as with other forms of cancer treatment.

All the pages in the childhood cancer section of this website have been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the clinical leader of the National Child Cancer Network.

This page last reviewed 16 July 2020.
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