Backgrounder Immuno-Oncology

Immuno-oncology (IO) therapy is a new (and old) way to treat cancer by activating your immune system in the hope that it will attack your tumour.

One of the earliest treatments for cancer was a kind of immune therapy. Coley’s Toxins was a soup of bacterial toxins that was injected directly into tumours over a century ago. This caused a great deal of inflammation and unfortunately sickness, but did lead to the cure of a small number of people.

A number of other immune therapies have been developed and trialled over the last century, but side effects, cost and variable benefits have limited their usefulness.

More recently, newer types of immune therapies (also called immuno-oncology or IO therapies) have been proving successful in some types of cancer. For example, results from early trials of immuno-oncology for advanced skin cancer (melanoma) and lung cancer have been encouraging, and some of these drugs have already been approved for use in some countries. Other types of immune therapies including vaccines are currently in trials for kidney cancer.


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