What is immunotherapy?

Ask the doctor

Published: January, 2019

Image: © designer491/Getty Images

Q. A friend has melanoma, and his doctor wants to use a new kind of treatment that boosts the immune system. Can you tell me more?

A. The immune system exists to attack foreign things that enter the body, such as germs. Certain cells of the immune system recognize and attack foreign things. Cancerous cells make chemicals that are not made by normal cells, chemicals the immune system should recognize as foreign. Unfortunately, eight million people around the globe die of cancer each year after their immune systems fail to destroy the cancer. Why do their immune systems fail?

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