Immunotherapy – treatments that harness and enhance the innate powers of the immune system to fight cancer – represents one of the most promising new cancer treatment approaches since the development of the first chemotherapies. One of the ways that cancer is able to develop, grow, and spread is by evading the body’s healthy immune system. Since cancer cells look so much like normal cells, cancer is essentially able to “hide in plain sight” from an immune system whose goal is to attack and destroy foreign material, while leaving the body’s own cells alone.


An activated immune system can sometimes recognize cancer as foreign. Patients with cancer who receive vaccination or develop infections have very occasionally shown short-lived tumor shrinkage – some cases of advance melanoma have even spontaneously regressed. Therapies such as interferon and interleukin-2, which stimulate the immune system, have been associated with prevention of recurrence and long-term responses. More recently, therapies have been developed that:

  • Specifically target immune cells by either removing the brakes that prevent the cells from recognizing cancer, or
  • By directly activating parts of the immune system that can attack, destroy, and remember cancer cells.

Harnessing the system

At West Cancer Center, investigators continue to develop strategies to harness the power of the body’s immune system to fight cancer, including:

  • Laboratory funding for exploring immune behavior of melanoma
  • Exploration of utility of tumor vaccine use
  • Initiation of Melanoma Research Group, a monthly conference of both researchers and clinicians focusing predominately on immunotherapeutic approaches in treating cutaneous and ocular melanoma
  • Strong offering of immunotherapy trials available, involving breast, lung, prostate, gastric, bladder, head and neck, and melanoma cancers

Find a Clinical Trial

West Cancer Center provides our patients access to the newest, most promising therapies through the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. Click the button below to browse our clinical trial opportunities.

Find a Clinical Trial