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Immunotherapy (biologic therapy or biotherapy) is treatment that uses certain parts of the immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. This can be done in a couple of ways.
In the last few decades immunotherapy has become an important part of treating several types of cancer. Some seem to work by boosting the body’s immune system in a very general way, others help train the immune system to attack cancer cells specifically.
Immunotherapy seems to work better for some types of cancer than for others, but for many cancers it seems to work best when used along with other types of treatment.
There are many types of cancer treatments that could be thought of as immunotherapy. Some work by stimulating your body's own immune system to fight the disease by boosting the immune system in a very general way, or by training the immune system to attack some part of cancer cells specifically.
Other treatments sometimes considered immunotherapy use immune system components such as proteins called antibodies. Some of these boost the immune system once they are in the body, others target specific parts of cancer cells, stopping them from growing or making them die.
The main types of immunotherapy now being used to treat cancer are discussed in the following sections. They include:
Immunotherapy drugs are now used to treat a number of cancers, including cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, kidney, lung, and prostate, as well as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and melanoma. Many types of immunotherapy work by targeting specific parts of cancer cells which differs from less specific treatments like chemotherapy.