The fourth pillar: how we’re arming the immune system to help fight cancer


Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.48.05 am Checkpoint blockade and adoptive immunotherapy are two examples of the fourth and newest pillar of cancer therapy. from

The past 40 years have seen a significant improvement in cancer survival. In the 1970s, only one cancer patient in three made it through the first five years after diagnosis.

The corresponding figure today is around 70%, and exceeds 85% for some cancers that were previously fatal.

What’s more, the trend of roughly 1% increased survival for every year that passes, is being maintained with our growing understanding of “cancer biology” – that is, what causes cancer and how cancer cells grow and spread.

New treatment options have flowed directly from this knowledge.

Conventional therapies: the three pillars

Until a century ago, the only hope of curing cancer was surgical removal. But two new treatments emerged in the middle of the 20th century: radiation therapy and chemotherapy. These remain indispensable in…

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