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17 - 10 - 2016

Immunotherapy against cancer, a booming approach

Not long ago, chemotherapy and radiation were the only options to treat cancers. But in these last few years, the birth of a new approach, completely different, is full of promise: immunotherapy.

 Boosting the immune system to help it defend itself The use of immunotherapy to fight cancer has been called the “scientific breakthrough of the year” by Science magazine in 2013, as this technique is innovative in the treatment of cancers. Unlike chemotherapy and radiotherapy, this therapeutic method is not designed to kill cancer cells directly. It boosts the patient’s immune system to help it fight cancer. Indeed, in the majority of cases, cancer cells are not, or very badly recognized as foreign and harmful by the immune system which doesn’t attack them. Immunotherapy teaches the body the recognize these cells as dangerous. The immune system is ‘educated’. If the immune response is there but is not strong enough, it is boosted to eliminate cancer cells. Finally, some cancer cells are able to develop a type of camouflage to hide from the immune system, or even block its action. Immunotherapy, in this case, unlocks the immune system so it can act against cancer.Already used in the treatment of metastatic melanomas (skin cancer), immunotherapy is showing encouraging results, prolonging patient survival. It should soon be used to treat other cancers such as advanced lung, bladder, ovary, liver cancers and many others.     The importance of animal testing Currently, immunotherapy is still in its infancy. The treatments using immunotherapy still need to be refined, as although the side effects are less frequent and more livable than the chemotherapy’s, there are still some patients that experience them (thyroid dysfunction, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, skin problem, etc.)Knowing the toxicity of the molecules that are being used, determining the correct dose that needs to be administered, finding the place of immunotherapy in the arsenal of drugs against cancer, figuring out how to correctly make It work with ‘classic’ therapies… There is still much research that remains to be conducted. And to do so, animal models, such as rodents are more than useful because they allow to measure the effect of the treatment, at the scale of a whole organism. Thus, it was research in mice that helped identify the group of immune cells (neutrophil white blood cells) on which the effectiveness of immunotherapy rests. And in the coming years, it is certainly experiments in these models that will help improve immunotherapy treatments against cancer.  Hélène Bour Trois questions sur l'immunothérapie, nouvel... par BFMTV  For more information: videos on our youtube channel on immunotherapy: Cliquez ici