The side effects of systemic chemotherapy used to treat cancer are often severe. For decades, oncologists have focused on treating the tumor, which may result in damage to the tumor‑bearing host and its immune system. Recently, much attention has been paid to the immune system of patients and its activation via biological therapies. Biological therapies, including immunotherapy and oncolytic virus (OV) therapy, are often more physiological and well tolerated. The present review elucidated how these therapies work and why these therapies may be better tolerated: i) In contrast to chemotherapy, immunotherapies induce a memory function of the adaptive immunity system; ii) immunotherapies aim to specifically activate the immune system against cancer; side effects are low due to immune tolerance mechanisms, which maintain the integrity of the body in the presence of B and T lymphocytes with their antigen‑receptor specificities and; iii) the type I interferon response, which is evoked by OVs, is an ancient innate immune defense system. Biological and physiological therapies, which support the immune system, may therefore benefit cancer treatment. The present review focused on immunotherapy, with the aim of reducing side effects and increasing long‑lasting efficacy in cancer therapy.