Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to specifically target cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. Unlike chemotherapy, which attacks all rapidly dividing cells in the body, including healthy ones, targeted therapy aims to block the specific molecules and pathways that are essential for cancer cell growth and survival.
One of the ways that targeted therapy can trigger the immune system to attack cancer cells is by causing cancer cells to release antigens, which are foreign substances that the immune system recognizes as “non-self” and can mount an immune response against. This process is known as immunogenic cell death. When cancer cells undergo immunogenic cell death, they release danger signals that attract immune cells, such as dendritic cells, to the site of the dying cancer cells. Dendritic cells are specialized immune cells that are responsible for presenting antigens to other immune cells, such as T cells, which can then recognize and attack cancer cells.
In addition to causing immunogenic cell death, targeted therapy can also enhance the ability of immune cells to recognize and attack cancer cells. One way this is achieved is through the inhibition of immune checkpoint molecules, which are proteins that normally act as “brakes” on the immune system to prevent it from attacking healthy cells. Cancer cells can exploit these checkpoint molecules to evade detection and attack by the immune system. Targeted therapy drugs that inhibit checkpoint molecules, such as PD-1, PD-L1, and CTLA-4, can release the brakes on the immune system, allowing it to attack cancer cells more effectively.
Another way that targeted therapy can enhance the immune system’s ability to attack cancer cells is by increasing the number and activity of immune cells in the tumor microenvironment. Tumors are known to create a hostile environment that suppresses the immune system and allows cancer cells to evade detection and attack. Targeted therapy drugs that block specific molecules and pathways involved in this immune suppression can promote the recruitment and activation of immune cells in the tumor microenvironment, making it more difficult for cancer cells to evade detection and attack.
Finally, targeted therapy can also be used in combination with other immunotherapies, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors or CAR-T cell therapy, to enhance the immune system’s ability to attack cancer cells. By targeting specific molecules and pathways that are essential for cancer cell growth and survival, targeted therapy can sensitize cancer cells to the effects of other immunotherapies, making them more effective at killing cancer cells.
In summary, targeted therapy can trigger the immune system to attack cancer cells in several ways, including by causing immunogenic cell death, releasing the brakes on the immune system, increasing the number and activity of immune cells in the tumor microenvironment, and enhancing the effectiveness of other immunotherapies. By leveraging the power of the immune system, targeted therapy offers a promising approach to the treatment of cancer, with the potential to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.