Cancer immunotherapy

Cancer Biother Radiopharm. 2011 Feb;26(1):1-64. doi: 10.1089/cbr.2010.0902.


Cancer immunotherapy consists of approaches that modify the host immune system, and/or the utilization of components of the immune system, as cancer treatment. During the past 25 years, 17 immunologic products have received regulatory approval based on anticancer activity as single agents and/or in combination with chemotherapy. These include the nonspecific immune stimulants BCG and levamisole; the cytokines interferon-α and interleukin-2; the monoclonal antibodies rituximab, ofatumumab, alemtuzumab, trastuzumab, bevacizumab, cetuximab, and panitumumab; the radiolabeled antibodies Y-90 ibritumomab tiuxetan and I-131 tositumomab; the immunotoxins denileukin diftitox and gemtuzumab ozogamicin; nonmyeloablative allogeneic transplants with donor lymphocyte infusions; and the anti-prostate cancer cell-based therapy sipuleucel-T. All but two of these products are still regularly used to treat various B- and T-cell malignancies, and numerous solid tumors, including breast, lung, colorectal, prostate, melanoma, kidney, glioblastoma, bladder, and head and neck. Positive randomized trials have recently been reported for idiotype vaccines in lymphoma and a peptide vaccine in melanoma. The anti-CTLA-4 monoclonal antibody ipilumumab, which blocks regulatory T-cells, is expected to receive regulatory approval in the near future, based on a randomized trial in melanoma. As the fourth modality of cancer treatment, biotherapy/immunotherapy is an increasingly important component of the anticancer armamentarium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / immunology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents