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Immunotherapy overview

Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy that uses the body’s immune system to better identify and attack cancer cells in the body.
Several different types of immunotherapy are currently used in the treatment of cancer to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells or prevent cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body. Immunotherapy is also referred to as a targeted treatment.

How it works

Cancer cells are not targeted by our natural defences as they can hide from the immune system, either by escaping defensive cells or by producing signals to cause the immune system to ignore the cells. Aggressive cancer cells can also overwhelm the immune system, preventing it from stopping the growth of cancer cells, even if they can be identified.

Immunotherapy works by encouraging the immune system to attack the cancer cells. This can be done by making cancer cells recognisable to the immune system or by blocking the pathways that cancer cells use to hide from our natural antibodies. Our immune system is our natural defence and has evolved to defend the body against illness, disease and infection without causing further damage to healthy cells. By using immunotherapy as a cancer treatment, we can provide the immune system with the necessary defences to work more efficiently against cancer.

How is immunotherapy given?

Immunotherapy is currently delivered using four different methods, depending on the intention of the treatment.

  • Intravenously- Treatment is delivered directly into a vein
  • Orally- The patient is given a course of tablets or pills to swallow
  • Topically- Immunotherapy is delivered by a cream that can be rubbed into the skin
  • Intravesical- A catheter delivers treatment directly into the bladder

All our Rutherford Cancer Centres offer immunotherapy within our Infusion Therapy Suites (for chemotherapy and immunotherapy patients). Our suites are designed around the comfort of our patients. They include a waiting area for patients and visitors, and individual treatment rooms along with refreshment facilities.

How long immunotherapy takes

Depending on the type of cancer and the intention of the immunotherapy, patients should expect to spend several hours to a full day receiving a single treatment of immunotherapy when delivered intravenously. The length of the full immunotherapy treatment will vary depending on the individual patient’s situation and could potentially take place over a year or longer, depending on the spread of cancer cells in the body.

Get in Touch

If you'd like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

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