Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a relatively new form of anti-cancer therapy. Rather than targeting specific cancer cells, the monoclonal antibodies currently available — called immune checkpoint inhibitors — target cells that suppress the potential response of a patient’s lymphocytes against cancer, and will stop some of the known mechanisms that normally turn off immune responses. In other words, checkpoint inhibitors release patient’s suppressed immune system and allow a patient’s lymphocytes to respond against previously ignored cancer cells.
Nowadays, the treatments using immune checkpoint inhibitors that the FDA originally approved against malignant melanoma are currently approved against a growing number of other types of cancer. This includes metastatic solid tumors and some hematologic malignancies.
What is the Function of Immune Checkpoints?
The function of checkpoint inhibitors is to allow the induction of anti-cancer immunotherapy by a patient’s immune system cells, which may be actively blocked from reacting against cancer.
Immune checkpoints are receptors meant to control and mitigate the body’s immune response. The goal of immune checkpoints is to provide a safeguard against the body’s normal cells, protecting them from potential attack by a patient’s immune system, as this would cause an autoimmune disease. However, their use for cancer treatment is indicated to allow a patient’s lymphocytes to react against cancer cells, or in other words, “to induce an autoimmune response” against dangerous cancer cells that continue with uncontrolled expansion.
Unfortunately, treatments with existing checkpoint inhibitors that attack cancer cells that may be similar to a patient’s normal cells can also result in limited autoimmune manifestations.
How Can Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors Help Against Cancer?
Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a new class of drugs that enable induction of anti-cancer immunotherapy. They eliminate the suppression of lymphocytes that could recognize and react against cancer cells. After a successful ongoing treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors, the immune system can be free to continue attacking cancer.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors are currently available as monoclonal antibodies against two main targets: one named Yervoy (ipilimumab) is a monoclonal antibody against a target known as CTLA-4. Others, Opdivo (nivolumab) or Keytruda (pembrolizumab) are monoclonal antibodies against a target known as PD-1 present on lymphocytes. Other monoclonal antibodies exist against PD-L1, a target that may be expressed on many types of cancer cells.
The Unique Approach Using Checkpoint Inhibitors at Biotherapy International
Treatment with checkpoint inhibitors is indicated to allow a patient’s own immune system cells to react against cancer cells. However, in addition to the well-known checkpoint inhibitors against CTLA-4 and PD-1, which we described above, there are other inhibitors that also play a major role in the immune-suppression process. At Biotherapy International, much attention is given to control additional important checkpoint inhibitors that are normally ignored. Our immunotherapy program combines the use of lower doses of the conventional immune checkpoint inhibitors, Yervoy, Opdivo and/or Keytruda to minimize the risk of drug-related adverse reactions and the risk of autoimmune manifestations. We also support their effects with other well-tolerated drugs that release other important inhibiting mechanisms. Much attention is paid to control regulatory T cells (Treg), myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), and tumour-associated macrophages (TAM), since all these cells can suppress a patient’s capacity to fight cancer. Biotherapy International’s unique broad spectrum approach against different suppressor cells of the immune system provides synergistic effects of different drugs aiming to maximize the overall capacity of a patient’s immune system to combat cancer.