Immunotherapies—Alone, Together, and with Other Treatments

What does my immune system have to do with fighting cancer?

Your immune system is your body’s natural defense against threats, including cancer. Your immune system has many active T cells that search for these threats.

Once T cells recognize threats, such as cancer cells, they attack them in order to help protect the body.

Learn more in our complete Guide to Immuno-Oncology. Keep this guide on hand for your reference and consider bringing it to your appointments.

How might one immunotherapy alone help the immune system fight cancer?

Immunotherapy is different from chemotherapy because it works with your immune system to help it attack cancer. There are different types of immunotherapies. They can all help the immune system fight cancer in different ways.

Some immunotherapies stop tricky cancer cells from escaping “detector” T cells. Then, detector T cells can become alerted to attack cancer cells.

Other immunotherapies can help “fighter” T cells stay activated. The activated fighter T cells can then attack cancer cells.

However, immunotherapy might also cause your immune system to harm healthy cells.

Immunotherapy + Immunotherapy

Because immunotherapies work in different ways, two types of immunotherapy can be used together to help the immune system fight cancer. When two immunotherapies are combined, they help fight cancer differently than one immunotherapy alone.

If you take two different types of immunotherapies together, there may be a greater chance your immune cells will attack both cancer and healthy cells.

Immunotherapies + Other Therapies

There is research being done to see if an immunotherapy can be used together with other treatments, like chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or targeted therapy.

When immunotherapy is used with another type of cancer treatment, the combined treatments may potentially be better able to fight cancer.

Just as when any two therapies are used together, there may be a greater chance of fighting cancer, but also a greater chance of harming healthy cells.

At Bristol Myers Squibb, we are exploring ways to combine more than one type of immunotherapy. Our research may also lead to combinations of an immunotherapy with other kinds of treatment.

It's all part of our mission to use the immune system to fight cancer and personalize treatment for cancer patients.

Biomarkers and Immunotherapy

Find out how Bristol Myers Squibb is leading the way in researching biomarkers.