According to Cancer Centers of America, immunotherapy is a broad category of anti-cancer therapies that use the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. Immunotherapy drugs are designed to alert the immune system about these mutated cells so it can locate and destroy them.
The immune system is always ridding the body of foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria or fungi. Lymph nodes, which make up most of the immune system throughout the body create white blood cells, such as “T cells,” to fight infection and cancer. Mesothelioma cancer cells are not recognized by the body’s immune system because these cells are part of the body’s own cells. These cancer cells are like lung cells that no longer act like healthy lung cells, allowing these dangerous cells to grow, divide and spread throughout the body. One way cancerous cells stay hidden is through the PD-1 receptor, which tricks the body into thinking cancer cells are normal.
Certain immunotherapy drugs work by blocking this evasive maneuver with a PD-1 inhibitor, which quiets the PD-1 receptor, allowing the cancer cells to be exposed as invaders, and triggering the immune system to send out an alert and launch a system-wide attack.