“Cancer immunotherapy is a therapy used to treat cancer patients that involves or uses components of the immune system. Some cancer immunotherapies consist of antibodies that bind to, and inhibit the function of, proteins expressed by cancer cells. Other cancer immunotherapies include vaccines and T cell infusions.”— Nature.com
The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation. It’s not an overnight success, as harnessing the immune system to eliminate tumors have been under development since the start of 20th century. Several effective strategies emerged over the past decade are now widely considered as promising tools for the treatment of cancers. CAR-T cell therapy and immune checkpoint blockade (CPB) have been shown effective in clinical trials. Nevertheless, both CAR-T and CPB have limitations. The CAR-T approach could not work well for solid tumors, and the objective response rate of CPB is limited in most tumor types. Therefore, only a small population of patients could benefit from these therapy approaches. Increasing research then focused on understanding the biological basis, identifying which patients are likely respond or not respond to the therapies, and how to increase the effectiveness. A rational approach is to combine checkpoint blockade therapy with personalized neoantigen vaccines.