Current approaches in cancer immunotherapy focus mainly on stimulating the adaptive immune system and, more specifically, cytotoxic T cells, either by generating new T cells through vaccines, CAR-T cell therapies, or by blocking immunosuppressive signals that prevent T cells from eliminating cancer cells (checkpoint inhibitors).
Cancer immunotherapy has been a breakthrough in the treatment of tumors. However, efficacy is limited to specific tumor types and available approaches benefit only a subset of patients (5 – 40% responders only). To provide for better results of these first-generation immunotherapies, tumor therapy is now exploring combination therapies that gradually improve outcome.
The evolving science has revealed the reasons for the mixed success. Tumors create a microenvironment, i.e. the area directly surrounding them, that blocks the ability of the immune system to do its job. Scientists believe that therapies capable of remodeling the tumor microenvironment will make the tumor much more vulnerable to immunotherapy. This approach holds the promise of better treatment outcomes and applicability to a larger patient population.