Immunotherapy is the "treatment of disease by inducing, enhancing, or suppressing an immune response". Immunotherapies designed to elicit or amplify an immune response are classified as activation immunotherapies, while immunotherapies that reduce or suppress are classified as suppression immunotherapies. In recent years, immunotherapy has become of great interest to researchers, clinicians and pharmaceutical companies, particularly in its promise to treat various forms of cancer.
Immunomodulatory regimens often have fewer side effects than existing drugs, including less potential for creating resistance when treating microbial disease. Cell-based immunotherapies are effective for some cancers. Immune effector cells such as lymphocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, natural killer cells (NK Cell), cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), etc., work together to defend the body against cancer by targeting abnormal antigens expressed on the surface of tumor cells. Therapies such as granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), interferons, imiquimod and cellular membrane fractions from bacteria are licensed for medical use.
Others including IL-2, IL-7, IL-12, various chemokines, synthetic cytosine phosphate-guanosine (CpG) oligodeoxynucleotides and glucans are involved in clinical and preclinical studies. Cancer immunotherapy attempts to stimulate the immune system to destroy tumors. A variety of strategies are in use or are undergoing research and testing. Randomized controlled studies in different cancers resulting in significant increase in survival and disease free period have been reported and its efficacy is enhanced by 20–30% when cell-based immunotherapy is combined with conventional treatment methods.