How New Immunotherapies Work for Head and Neck Cancer


Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN

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The idea of unleashing the immune system against cancer cells has tantalized doctors, scientists, cancer patients, and their families for decades. Our bodies’ natural defenses are so good at identifying and defeating many intruders (think of the hundreds of germs we encounter each and every day!), yet so sluggish when it comes to attacking cancer cells. That’s because cancer cells are masters of disguise: they trick the body into believing they’ve supposed to be there, so the immune system leaves the cancer cells alone—until now, that is.

New immunotherapy treatments are now helping some people with head and neck cancer live longer, healthier lives. Here’s how they work.

Three patients who have treated cancer with immunotherapy discuss their experiences.

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