Division of Hematology/Oncology

Treatments

Immunotherapy

Medical oncologists and hematologists at Penn Medicine are pioneers in using patients' own immune systems to fight cancer.

About Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is designed to repair, stimulate, or enhance the immune system's responses. The body's immune system helps to prevent disease, but it can also play a role in preventing cancer from developing or spreading. The goal of immunotherapy is to enhance the body's natural defenses and its ability to fight cancer.

Immunotherapy often has fewer side effects than conventional cancer treatments because it uses the body's own immune system to:

  • Target specific cancer cells, thereby potentially avoiding damage to normal cells
  • Make cancer cells easier for the immune system to recognize and destroy
  • Prevent or slow tumor growth and spread of cancer cells

Vaccine therapy is a type of immunotherapy that uses vaccines to teach the body's immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells. Cancer vaccines are intended to delay or stop cancer cell growth, shrink tumors, prevent cancer from coming back or eliminate cancer cells that have not been killed by other forms of treatment.

Cancer treatment vaccines are sometimes made with cells from the patient's own tumor, which are modified in the lab and then given back to the patient to stop, destroy or delay the growth of the cancer.

The Penn Difference

Penn medical oncologists and hematologists are experts in the use of immunotherapy to stimulate the immune system to recognize the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells, and eliminate the cancer cells.

Penn's multidisciplinary approach to medical treatment helps patients and their families achieve the best survival and quality of life. Medical oncologists and hematologists at Penn coordinate overall patient care and direct immunotherapy and other related treatments.

Diseases Treated with Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is not appropriate for all patients and all types of cancer. At this time hematologists/oncologists at Penn Medicine use immunotherapy to treat:

  • Breast cancer
  • Hematologic (blood) cancers, including multiple myeloma and lymphoma
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Mesothelioma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer

In addition to immunotherapy, Penn Hematology/Oncology treatments include:

  • Bone marrow transplant and stem cell therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Targeted molecular therapy
  • Vaccine therapy

Patients at Penn Medicine also have the expertise and support of the Abramson Cancer Center, a comprehensive cancer center recognized by the National Cancer Institute as "exceptional" that provides patients with specialized cancer treatment and support teams.