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Another powerful ally in precision oncology has been there all along – the body’s immune system. Our immune system’s natural ability to detect and destroy abnormal cells prevents many cancers from ever developing, just like it protects us from infections. However, cancer cells can sometimes evade this system of immune surveillance. In the relatively new field of cancer immunotherapy, scientists are beating cancer cells at their own game – enlisting a person’s own immune system to control and, in some cases, even cure their cancer. Decades of NIH research has led to several types of cancer immunotherapy drugs. These include mimics of natural immune-system molecules, such as anti-cancer antibodies, supercharged immune cells, or treatment vaccines that “teach” an individual’s immune system to attack tumors. Because the treatments enlist the immune system, they do not kill every dividing cell like traditional chemotherapy drugs. Unfortunately, they don’t yet work in everyone. NIH researchers, however, are busy investigating the factors that affect whether a tumor will respond to immunotherapy, providing clues for matching tumors to drugs.
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Each $1 increase in public basic research stimulates an additional $8.38 of industry R&D investment after 8 years.
This page last reviewed on February 11, 2020