What is Immuno-Oncology?

“Immuno” in Immuno-Oncology (I-O) refers to your immune system. I-O uses drugs known as immunotherapies that target your body’s immune system to help fight cancer.
Immuno-oncology is an important pillar in cancer therapy.

The Immune system

The immune system is a network of organs, cells and molecules throughout the whole body. The role of the immune system is to protect the body from harmful things like germs, viruses, and diseases like cancer. After first finding a foreign substance (such as germs, viruses, or cancer cells), the immune system takes action. Immune responses are the way the body works to find and destroy abnormal cells, including cancer cells.

The principle of Immuno-Oncology

Most treatment options available for cancer are directed against a tumour or against cancer cells. The tumour can be treated locally (surgery, radiotherapy) or with medication (chemotherapy, targeted therapies). On the other hand, immuno-oncology focuses on strengthening the body's own defence mechanism and can thus offer a different treatment option in the fight against various types of cancer.

Cancer and the Immune Response

Cancerous cells are actually quite common in the body. When cancerous cells form in the body, the immune system works to find and fight the cancer by activating an immune response. The immune response involves several types of cells, including a kind of white blood cell called a T cell. These cells work to find and destroy the abnormal cancer cells.
Normally, the immune response works like it is supposed to by finding and destroying cancerous cells. Sometimes though, cancer cells can undergo changes in order to escape the body’s ability to attack them, allowing cancerous cells to grow and spread. Immuno-Oncology research is looking at how to work with the immune system so that immune responses can work as they should. As a results, the immune response, including T cells, may be able to do its job of destroying cancerous cells.

How Immuno-Oncology treatment activates the body's own tumour defence

Immuno-oncology therapies can support the immune system to re-activate its own anti-cancer cell immune response. The natural killer cells and T cells are thereby enabled again to actively fight cancer cells.
Immuno-oncology therapies try to support the body's immune system so that the cancer cells can no longer escape the attack of T cells. The body’s own anti-cancer cell immune response is reactivated.