How Immunotherapy Is Changing Cancer Treatment


Maurie Markman, MD

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Doctor Examining Patient Lymph Nodes

In the past, many patients with advanced cancers had limited treatment options. If removing the cancer surgically didn’t work, and then chemotherapy or radiation didn’t kill the cancer, patients were left with few choices.

Today, however, a type of treatment called immunotherapy, which uses our own immune systems to fight cancer cells, is offering effective results for these patients and changing how we think about cancer care.

The concept of using our own immune systems to fight cancer has been around for a long time. For the last century, doctors and researchers have been working to develop a way to harness the power of our own bodies in this fight. Specifically in the last 30 years, lots of research has focused on this concept, and today we are well on our way to understanding the best way to enhance our immune systems’ abilities to fight cancer. Now, a substantial percentage of cancer patients with an increasing number of cancer types are seeing an impact with new immunotherapies. Immunotherapies improve symptoms and quality of life, have few side effects, and, most importantly, extend survival—they’re changing the paradigm.

With certain cancer patients, immunotherapy can give people the chance to have a normal life.

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