Immunotherapy Approaches and Their Application in the Treatment of Cancer and Diabetes

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2017

8 Pages, Grade: 1.8



Immunotherapy Approaches

Types of Immunotherapies

Application of Immunotherapy in Cancer and Diabetes

Immunotherapy in Cancer Treatment

Cancer Vaccines

Cancer Vaccines on Clinical Trials

Application of Immunotherapy in Type 1 Diabetes




Immunotherapy approach seems to have gained a widespread application in the treatment of diseases, unlike in the past two decades when it was not considered as a significant treatment option. However, this treatment option dates back to the Nineteenth Century in which surgeons discovered the correlation between surgery and microbial infections, especially in post-surgery patients. For instance, William Coley, a renowned New York surgeon applied immunotherapy technique on cancer patients. This was after his realization that, some bacterial infections to post-surgery cancer patients helped to manage the disease. Coley received posthumous fame after researchers identified the beneficial bacteria as Coley toxins. Despite the success realized in the treatment of the disease, it was abandoned after new treatment techniques were discovered (American Cancer Society, 2012). Since then, immunotherapy received little attention from healthcare professionals and researchers until recently when it was found to be significant in treating most of the challenging diseases such as cancer, autoimmune diseases as well as infectious diseases.

Immunotherapy Approaches

In immunotherapy, also known as biologic therapy, some aspects of the immune system are used to fight diseases. For instance, immune system can be stimulated to increase its response to biological agents such as bacteria, viruses and some proteins. This is the principal applied in the development of most vaccines whose biological role is to trigger an immune response against specific pathogens upon their entrance into the body. Ideally, immunotherapy vaccines are meant to induce the cell-mediated immune response against pathogens by increasing the number of the lymphocytes, primarily the T-cells and B-cells (Dow et al. 2012).

The second approach for immunotherapy is the introduction of the immune system components into the patient’s body to confer it with the required immune defense against the target organism or biological agent. In most cases, man-made immune system proteins are prepared through the recombinant technology, and then introduced into the patient’s body system to replace the missing components of the immune system which occur often as a result of genetic disorders. For instance, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) has been found to be highly significant in immunomodulation. These proteins have been found to play an autocrine function when present in the immune system by facilitating coordination biological events which occur in intramural blood circulation, musculature and lymphoid components. Bellinger and his colleagues (1996) reaffirm, “studies demonstrate that VIP-ir nerves in lymphoid organs are in intimate anatomical association with elements of the immune system, the presence of high-affinity receptors for VIP, and functional studies where VIP influences a variety of immune responses” (p. 5).

Types of Immunotherapies

In practice, there are two principal forms of immunotherapy whose clinical applications have proven to be pivotal in addressing the challenges caused by autoimmune reactions and cancer. These forms include activation immunotherapy and suppression immunotherapy. In other words, these immunotherapies can be categorized as active immunotherapies and passive immunotherapies, especially in regard to their biological activity in the body of individual active immunotherapies increase the immune system response by activating various immune system and autocrine components (Epps & Srinivasan, 2006). On the other hand, passive immunotherapies target specific components of the immune system and suppress their active, especially with regard to their response to biological agents such as foreign proteins.

Application of Immunotherapy in Cancer and Diabetes

In recent years, immunotherapies have been applied in the treatment of different cancers and autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and allergies. However, it is worth noting that, immunotherapies are used both in the treatment of diseases as well as in clinical research studies. Research has proven to be highly significant in unraveling the mysteries associated with some of the most challenging diseases, especially with regard to the emerging non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Precisely, the significance of immunotherapies in the treatment of diseases can be explained by their usefulness in cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Immunotherapy in Cancer Treatment

In cancer treatment, immunotherapy techniques have gained unprecedented popularity in the recent years, owing to their efficiency and feasible application. Clinical research studies are focusing on advancing immunotherapy for cancer treatment to address the enormous challenges, which have been posed by the disease on public healthcare systems. Recently, an array of immunotherapy drugs has been developed for the treatment of different cancers including colon, breast, kidney, prostate and lung cancers. In addition, immunotherapy drugs for the treatment of some disease conditions such as multiple myeloma, lymphoma, melanoma and leukemia have also been developed after extensive clinical research trials. Moreover, it is worth noting that, research studies are still ongoing to develop new drugs. Ideally, clinical research studies focus on findings new treatment alternatives to improve the present treatment options or discover new life-saving drugs and vaccines.

In regard to the type of immunotherapy applied in the treatment of different cancers, immunotherapy approaches involve the use of monoclonal antibodies, cancer vaccines and non-specific immunotherapies.

Cancer Vaccines

Currently, there are several cancer vaccines, which have been developed to prevent cancer among the global population. These vaccines are designed to activate the immune system to respond to tumor cells as soon as they develop before they advance into cancer. Therefore, most cancer vaccines fall in the category of active immunotherapy. However, it is worth noting that, there are also other cancer vaccines whose role in the body is to destroy cancer cells in the body of cancer patients. Other cancer vaccines prevent the recurrence of some cancers after successful treatment. Therefore, cancer vaccines are designed for the treatment and prevention of cancer.

Cancer preventive vaccines are designed to reduce the predisposing risk factors whose acceleration causes some cancer diseases. For instance, some vaccines destroy some pathogenic microorganisms such as viruses to reduce the risk of the related cancers.

Some of the most common cancer-causing pathogens include the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Human Papilloma Virus has been found to be a significant cause of throat, anal and cervical cancers; thus, its presence in the body increases an individual’s risk of developing these cancers. Currently, vaccines against Human Papilloma Virus have been developed to prevent the prevalence of the related cancers. Therefore, healthy individuals are given the vaccine to strengthen their immune system response against infections by the virus.

The second virus which is known to cause cancer is the Hepatitis B Virus. Research studies indicate that, patients who experience long-term chronic HBV infections are at a higher risk of suffering from liver cancer than those who do not have the virus in their bodies. Therefore, a Hepatitis B Virus vaccine is administered on individuals to prevent them from suffering from liver cancer.

On the other hand, vaccines for cancers which are not caused by infections such as breast, lung, prostate and colorectal cancers are designed to prevent or treat cancer by activating the immune system response against cancer cells in the body (American Cancer Society, 2012). These vaccines are meant to boost the immune system by mounting cell-mediated responses against the target antigen, in this case, the cancer causing cells in the body.

Currently, there is only one cancer vaccine which has been approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Sipuleucel-T (Provenge®) is the only recommended vaccine available for the treatment of cancer (American Cancer Society, 2012). Unfortunately, this vaccine can only treat prostate cancer. However, it is worth noting that, Sipuleucel-T (Provenge®) is used for the treatment of prostate cancer patients who can not be treated under hormonal therapy. This is so because; the vaccine is associated with several side effects including high blood pressure and breathing difficulties.

Other vaccines which boost the immune system to help in the treatment of cancers include Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), Imiquimod (Aldara®), Lenalidomide (Revlimid®) and Thalidomide (Thalomid®). These are non-specific vaccines which boost the immune system against infections (American Cancer Society, 2012). However, it is worth noting that, they are not intended for cancer treatment although their presence in the body of healthy individuals plays a significant role in preventing some infections which may weaken the immune system.


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Immunotherapy Approaches and Their Application in the Treatment of Cancer and Diabetes
Egerton University
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cancer, diabetes, immunotherapy
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Patrick Kimuyu (Author), 2017, Immunotherapy Approaches and Their Application in the Treatment of Cancer and Diabetes, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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