Immunotherapy refer to treatment that use of body own immune system to combat disease. It has become a great interest to researchers, clinicians and pharmaceutical companies, particularly in its promise to treat various form of cancer including solid tumour and malignant cancer.

Several immunotherapy strategies have been developed and tested over decades such as monoclonal antibodies, cancer vaccine, as well as ‘trained’ body own immune cells in laboratory to recognise and kill tumour cells.

One of the monoclonal antibodies known as pembrolizumab improves 15% of five-year survival rate for patient who has advanced non-small cell lung cancer [1]. According to the Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report 2012-2016, lung cancer is one of the most lethal cancers, as late-stage diagnosis is often associated with a lower survival rate.

Cancer vaccine is vaccine that containing protein fragments found on cancer cells. It helps to enhance the body immune response to destroy tumours. So far, none of these vaccines have been approved by the FDA, but some have shown promise in clinical trials to treat melanoma and some types of lung cancer.

Furthermore, body own immune cells such as T cell and Natural killer cells can be ‘trained’ or “genetically modified’ to fight cancer. One of the genetically modified T cell products called “KYMRIAH” have been approved by US FDA on 2017 for relapse or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

It’s exciting to see immunotherapy emerging as a new weapon in the fight against cancer. In the near future, cancer will no longer be a deadly disease. By strengthening our own immunity, humans can defeat cancer.

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1. “Five-Year Overall Survival for Patients with Advanced Non-small cell Lung Cancer Treated with Pembrolizumab: Results from the Phase I KEYNOTE-001 Study,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, June 2, 2019