The role of the immune system in eradicating cancer is critically important. Patients with suppressed immune systems frequently face more aggressive cancers and don’t respond as well to our traditional therapies.
Today, there’s an increased use of systemic therapies that modulate the immune system, including traditional immunotherapy agents like PDL-1 inhibitors or CTLA-4 inhibitors. These have become a standard treatment for a number of malignancies including head and neck cancer, lung cancer, and gastrointestinal cancers.
Additional immunotherapy agents are emerging at the University of Maryland, including CAR T-cell therapy, which is being expanded for use from leukemias and lymphomas to solid tumor malignancies through clinical trials.
One important consideration in the use of radiation in the treatment of cancer is that very low doses of radiation and a low dose spread of radiation can have a significant impact on immune cells. Low doses of radiation can cause cell death in different types of immune cells. Anything we can do to decrease the low dose spread of radiation may allow for the immune system to be more competent and better participate in eradication of the malignancy.