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Teaching the immune system to fight cancer

Under normal circumstances, our immune system naturally helps our bodies fight off germs and disease, keeping us healthy. However, cancer cells are often invisible to our immune system which means our bodies can’t detect the disease in order to fight it. This is one reason cancer can be difficult to treat.

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An oral squamous cancer cell (white) being attacked by two cytotoxic T cells (red), part of a natural immune response.
Credit: National Cancer Institute

Through ongoing research at cancer centers across the nation, including at the Rogel Cancer Center, we’ve learned how to teach the immune system to fight the disease. Using a variety of methods, immunotherapy can:

  • Stop or slow the growth of cancer cells
  • Stop cancer from spreading to new parts of the body, also called metastasis
  • Help the immune system better destroy cancer cells

Understanding Immunotherapy

As we continue to test ways to help the immune system recognize cancer cells and destroy them, more and more therapies are becoming available to cancer patients. Immunotherapy gives our bodies the needed boost to fight the cancer by:

  • Improving our overall immune system functions
  • Giving our bodies what it needs to better target specific cancers
  • Restoring our immune system functions if they are compromised

Types of Immunotherapy Treatment

Cancers Treated with Immunotherapy

  • Bladder
  • Brain
  • Breast
  • Cervical and Ovarian
  • Colorectal (colon) and Gastric (stomach)
  • Head and neck
  • Kidney and Liver
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma
  • Lung
  • Prostate
  • Skin

Watch this video and learn more about immunotherapy

courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

Ongoing Research Efforts in Immunotherapy

Researchers at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center and other biomedical scientists continue studying how to improve the immune system's response to cancer. Read the latest on our research:


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