Immune checkpoint proteins regulate the strength and duration of an immune response. Cancer cells can commandeer these proteins (such as CTLA4 and PD-1) and use them to suppress the immune response. Checkpoint modulators inhibit these proteins, taking this power away from cancer cells and allowing the immune response against cancer to occur.
Antibodies used to treat cancer are designed to target proteins found on cancer cells, causing the cells to commit suicide. "Antibody-drug conjugates" are antibodies attached to a toxic payload that kills cancer cells, like a bacterial toxin, an anticancer drug, or a radioactive substance. The antibody ferries the payload to cancer cells. Once the antibody attaches to its target on cancer cells, it releases its payload to kill the cancer.
A high-technology approach to cancer treatment is adoptive cell transfer (ACT), in which T cells from a patient are collected, modified and multiplied in the laboratory, and returned to the patient to kill cancer cells. T-cell modification is under investigation at NewYork-Presbyterian. One actively studied form of ACT is CAR T-cell therapy. A patient's T cells are removed and genetically modified to express a protein called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). When returned to the patient, these receptors allow the modified T cells to attach to specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells. Once bound to those proteins, the T cells become activated and attack the cancer cells.
Cancer vaccines are typically made from a patient's own tumor cells or from substances that tumors produce. They are designed to treat cancers and to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence by strengthening the body's natural defenses.
Interleukins and interferons are proteins that normally help regular the activity of the immune system to enhance the immune response against cancer. Researchers continue to evaluate the most effective use of interleukins and interferons against cancer.