Introduction: Cancer immunotherapy encompasses a wide range of treatment modalities that harness the anti-tumor effects of the immune system. Some immunotherapies broadly activate the immune system while others precisely target distinct tumor antigens. Because of this heterogeneity, the side effects associated with immunotherapy can be mild and localized or more severe and systemic.
Areas covered: Cytokines, adoptive cellular therapies and vaccines are the most commonly used immunotherapies for the treatment of a number of malignancies and have been used for many decades. Checkpoint blockade has recently emerged as a promising immunotherapy. The biggest benefits of immunotherapy have been demonstrated in melanoma, renal cell carcinoma and hematologic malignancies. Emerging data are highlighting the potential for broad applicability of immunotherapy in a number of solid and hematologic malignancies.
Expert opinion: Immunotherapies are slowly becoming integrated into the standard of care in cancer treatment. Promising results using immunotherapy have been reported demonstrating complete remissions and cures in many patients with aggressive malignancies. The complexity and cost of engineering and administering of some forms of immunotherapy limit their use to distinct patient populations. High-throughput and cost-effective techniques are being used to broaden the applications of immunotherapy to treat cancer patients.