Harnessing the immune system for cancer therapy

Curr Opin Oncol. 2014 Nov;26(6):600-7. doi: 10.1097/CCO.0000000000000128.


Purpose of review: Over the last 18 months, substantial progress has been made in demonstrating the clinical efficacy of harnessing the immune system to treat a variety of both solid and hematologic malignancies. This review summarizes and evaluates these seminal studies.

Recent findings: The two treatment modalities most responsible for the success of immune based therapies in cancer are adoptive T-cell therapy and immunoregulatory antibodies. Specifically, immunotherapy is generating responses in malignancies that would otherwise have no traditional curative options such as CD19-targeted chimeric antigen receptors to treat relapsed/refractory acute lymphocytic leukemia and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) and PD-1 blockade alone or in combination to treat metastatic melanoma and other solid tumors.

Summary: We are at a turning point for the field of cancer immunotherapy. The scientific community is now, after decades of research, proving that these treatments have great promise for patients. Ongoing preclinical research and clinical trials over the next few years will determine the extent of impact cancer immunotherapy will have on the treatment of the general population.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Immunotherapy / trends*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*