Immuno-Oncology | Cancer research


Cancer immunotherapy (sometimes called immuno-oncology) is the artificial stimulation of the immune system to treat cancer, improving on the immune system's natural ability to fight the disease. It is an application of the fundamental research of cancer immunology and a growing subspeciality of oncology. It exploits the fact that cancer cells often have tumor antigens, molecules on their surface that can be detected by the antibody proteins of the immune system, binding to them. The tumor antigens are often proteins or other macromolecules (e.g. carbohydrates). Normal antibodies bind to external pathogens, but the modified immunotherapy antibodies bind to the tumor antigens marking and identifying the cancer cells for the immune system to inhibit or kill. In 2018, James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.


Categories:   Immunotherapies can be categorized as active, passive or hybrid (active and passive). Active immunotherapy directs the immune system to attack tumor cells by targeting tumor antigens. Passive immunotherapies enhance existing anti-tumor responses and include the use of monoclonal antibodies, lymphocytes and cytokines.


A wide range of cancers can be treated by various immunotherapy medicines that have been approved in many jurisdictions around the world.


Passive antibody therapies commonly involve the targeting of Cell surface receptors and include CD20, CD274 and CD279 antibodies. Once bound to a cancer antigen, the modified antibodies can induce antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity, activate the complement system, or prevent a receptor from interacting with its ligand, all of which can lead to cell death. Apart from classical immunomodulatory receptors, cell surface proteoglycans are an emerging class of targets for cancer immunotherapy.


Approved immunotherapy antibodies include alemtuzumab, ipilimumab, nivolumab, ofatumumab, pembrolizumab and rituximab.


Active cellular therapies usually involve the removal of immune cells from the blood or from a tumor. Those specific for the tumor are grown in culture and returned to the patient where they attack the tumor; alternatively, immune cells can be genetically engineered to express a tumor-specific receptor, cultured and returned to the patient. Cell types that can be used in this way are natural killer (NK) cells, lymphokine-activated killer cells, cytotoxic T cells and dendritic cells.




Cancer research is research into cancer to identify causes and develop strategies for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure.


Cancer research ranges from epidemiology, molecular bioscience to the performance of clinical trials to evaluate and compare applications of the various cancer treatments. These applications include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and combined treatment modalities such as chemo-radiotherapy. Starting in the mid-1990s, the emphasis in clinical cancer research shifted towards therapies derived from biotechnology research, such as cancer immunotherapy and gene therapy.


Cancer research is done in academia, research institutes, and corporate environments, and is largely government funded.


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Journal of Cancer Research and Immuno-Oncology

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