How effective is immunotherapy in cancer?
Ever since immunotherapy was developed for cancer, it has been wrongly believed to be the last treatment in humanity’s struggle with cancer. Results, however, are far from expectations. As mentioned above, many monoclonal antibodies were found to not target vital receptors on cancer cells. Another hurdle was the immunogenicity of such treatment. Monoclonal antibodies are manufactured outside the human body -mostly in rats- and are proteins, making them ideal for developing immune reactions and rejection. This had been the problem for more than 20 years following the initial conception of monoclonal antibodies in the 70s.
Several techniques were employed since then that overcame these problems including the use of humanized antibodies that are less animal and more human, causing a significant drop in the incidence of allergic reactions. Antibodies were also developed to target more specific cellular structures, making them more specific and lethal to cancer cells. These changes, along with the fact that immunotherapy, in general, has fewer side effects than chemotherapy and radiotherapy made it a standard of care in many cancers. It is still not the killing bullet for all cancer, but we have come a long way.