Narrated by CRI's own Jill O'Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., "Immunotherapy: 5 Ways to Stop Cancer" features five 1-minute animated videos that provide a quick overview of the five most common immunotherapies in use: monoclonal antibodies, checkpoint inhibitors, cancer vaccines, adoptive cell therapy, and oncolytic viruses.

Monoclonal Antibodies: Making Cancer a Target

Monoclonal antibodies, like the drugs Avastin (bevacizumab), Herceptin (trastuzumab), and Rituxin (rituximab), are effective in treating a wide range of cancer types such as lung cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma, and others. By binding to cancer antigens, monoclonal antibodies mark the cells for destruction by the immune system. Clinical trials of more monoclonal antibodies for additional cancer types are ongoing.

Checkpoint Inhibitors: Taking the Brakes Off the Immune System

Checkpoint inhibitors are a very promising avenue for treating cancer. Imagine the immune system is a car, complete with brake and accelerator pedals, telling it when to move forward and attack, and when to stay still. Checkpoint inhibitors disengage the immune system’s brakes, allowing it to attack the cancer cells at full speed. Already approved to treat melanoma and certain lung cancers, therapies like Yervoy (ipilimumab), Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Opdivo (nivolumab), and others may have applications in dozens of additional cancer types.

Cancer Vaccines: Jump Starting an Immune Response to Cancer

Vaccines to prevent diseases like measles or chicken pox are commonplace. Scientists are now using similar principles to develop vaccines to prevent, and sometimes treat, cancer. Cancer prevention vaccines include the hepatitis B vaccine, which prevents liver cancer, and the HPV vaccine Gardasil, which prevents cervical and ano-genital cancers. One therapeutic cancer vaccine, Provenge, has been approved for the treatment of prostate cancer. Clinical trials for vaccines for other cancer types are ongoing.

Adoptive Cell Therapy: Turning Immune Cells into Cancer Fighters

Adoptive cell therapy treats cancer by taking advantage of the immune system’s killer cells, the T cells. At its most basic, this involves removing cells from the patient, greatly enhancing their numbers, and then giving them back to the patient. Scientists can also alter the makeup of T cells in the lab to make them more powerful. This is known as CAR T cell therapy. While this type of treatment is not yet FDA approved, it is currently being studied in diseases like leukemia and early clinical trial results are very encouraging.

Oncolytic Virus Therapy: Dynamite for Cancer Cells

A virus to cure cancer? It’s possible! Some viruses can infect cancer cells specifically, and cause them to burst. These are known as oncolytic viruses. One promising oncolytic virus therapy is called T-VEC, and is currently in late-stage clinical testing for melanoma.

This video series was generously supported by a charitable grant from Merck, known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada.