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What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that turns the body’s immune system against cancer. Some types of immunotherapy are also referred to as targeted therapies.

Immunotherapy differs from chemotherapy in the way that it attacks cancer cells. Chemotherapy, (often called 'chemo'), is a treatment that uses drugs that kill cancer cells directly. Chemotherapy attacks all the rapidly-dividing cells that it can locate within the body, thus targeting fast-growing tumours. On the other hand, immunotherapy works by stimulating and enhancing the existing powers of the immune system to work against disease — enabling it to recognise, target, and eliminate cancer cells throughout the body.

Prof Iain McNeish, Director of the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre, and Dr Sarah Spear explain what immunotherapy is and the promise it holds to create better, kinder treatments for ovarian cancer patients.

Immunotherapy is available for some cancers, such as advanced melanoma and kidney cancer. Unfortunately, immunotherapy is currently unavailable for ovarian cancer — we want to change that. 

In September 2019, we hosted our most recent HHMT International Forum on Ovarian Cancer,  which focused on answering the important question of how we can achieve meaningful and lasting responses to immunotherapies in patients with ovarian cancers.

Further to that, we awarded a significant grant of up to £600,000 for an immunotherapy or immunology-based research project to improve outcomes and transform treatment for women with ovarian cancer. 

By investing in immunotherapy research now, we hope that we will be able to replicate the success seen in other cancers for ovarian cancer.

Click here to donate to our research