The current concepts and practice of cancer immunotherapy evolved from classical experiments that distinguished "self" from "non-self" and the finding that humoral immunity is complemented by cellular immunity. Elucidation of the biology underlying immune checkpoints and interactions between ligands and ligand receptors that govern the immune system's ability to recognize tumor cells as foreign has led to the emergence of new strategies that mobilize the immune system to reverse this apparent tolerance. Some of these approaches have led to new therapies such as the use of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to interfere with the immune checkpoint. Others have exploited molecular technologies to re-engineer a subset of T cells to directly engage and kill tumor cells, particularly those of B cell malignancies. However, before immunotherapy can become a more effective method of cancer care, there are many challenges that remain to be addressed and hurdles to overcome. Included are manipulation of tumor microenvironment (TME) to enhance T effector cell infiltration and access to the tumor, augmentation of tumor MHC expression for adequate presentation of tumor associated antigens, regulation of cytokines and their potential adverse effects, and reduced risk of secondary malignancies as a consequence of mutations generated by the various forms of genetic engineering of immune cells. Despite these challenges, the future of immunotherapy as a standard anti-cancer therapy is encouraging.
- Received November 28, 2016.
- Revision received January 9, 2017.
- Accepted January 14, 2017.
- Copyright ©2017, American Association for Cancer Research.