Active Immunotherapy

Immune Cell-Mediated Cell Killing

Some cancer cells are able to inactivate the immune system or simply hide from it. As a result, immune cells will not recognize the cancer cells and thus not kill them.

Active immunotherapies are strategies that attempt to stimulate the patient's immune system in such a way that immune cells, such as NK-cells or cytotoxic T-cells, recognize the tumor cells again and kill them effectively.

Directly go to different types of active immunotherapy strategies >>

Definition of how active immunotherapy works

Active immunotherapies usually involve the following steps:

  1. Cancer vaccine treatments introduce one or more antigens into the body, usually by i.v. injection.
  2. There, they cause an immune response that results in immune cell activation or antibody production.
  3. Antibodies recognize and bind to antigens on the surface of cancer cells. At the same time, the immune cells (in most cases the CD8+ cytotoxic T-cells) induce the death of cancer cells by targeting the tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) that are present on the cancer cells' surface. 

Active Immunotherapy Strategies

Since the immune system consists of various cell types, there are different treatments to mediate cancer cell cytotoxicity. 

NK Cell-Mediated Cytotoxicity T Cell-Mediated Cytotoxicity

Macrophage-Mediated Cell Killing


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Lasfar, A. et al. Concerted action of IFN-α and IFN-λ induces local NK cell immunity and halts cancer growth. Oncotarget. 2016 Jun 24 [Epub ahead of print]