What Is Immunotherapeutic Targeting in Children?

Reviewed on 7/9/2020

What Is Immunotherapeutic Targeting in Children?

Cancer treatments for children usually involve multiple procedures, including chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy. However, many of these treatments are extremely toxic and do not provide cures. 

Current research into tumor immunology and immune-based therapies indicates immunotherapy may be a type of treatment that could be integrated into an overall treatment plan to help eradicate certain cancers. Immunotherapeutic targeting treatments for cancer may be used along with conventional therapies or on their own.

What Is Innate and Adaptive Immunity?

Current immunotherapies involve either activating or boosting a person’s innate immunity and adaptive (acquired) immunity, which involves exposure to an antigen so the body develops an immunity.

Innate immunity describes the cellular components that act as a first-line immunologic defense. Activating innate immunity can stimulate direct antitumor effects and also boost adaptive immunity (especially T-cell responses).

The adaptive (acquired) immune system is made up of T cells and B cells which are part of the body’s immune response, that have learned to recognize foreign antigens and have produced an immunologic memory to fight these antigens if the person is re-exposed to them.

What Are Some Examples of Immunotherapeutic Targeted Therapies in Children?

Bone marrow transplantation, such as is done for leukemia patients, is an example of immunotherapy for cancer. Bone marrow transplantation transfers T-cells, which play a role in immune response, to rid the body of certain forms of leukemia

Other examples of targeted immunologic therapies are still under investigation or in clinical trials and include:

  • Tumor vaccines
    • These vaccines boost the immune system and help it recognize and destroy antigens
    • These are given to stop a tumor from growing or spreading, to destroy remaining cancer cells following other cancer treatments, and to prevent the cancer from recurring
    • Most cancer vaccines are currently only available through clinical trials
  • Cytokine and growth factor therapy
    • Currently under investigation
    • These treatments help in the expansion and activation of T cells
  • Monoclonal antibody therapy
    • This type of therapy targets and kills specific tumors


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Reviewed on 7/9/2020
Medscape Medical Reference