Korean J Med.  2014 Sep;87(3):284-295. 10.3904/kjm.2014.87.3.284.

Cancer Immunotherapy: The Dawn of the Renaissance after the Medieval Dark Ages

  • 1Department of Oncology, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea. leedaeho@amc.seoul.kr


Cancer immunotherapy has come a long way since William Coley observed that a mixture of killed bacteria, or Coley's toxin, induced tumor regression. However, enthusiasm for cancer immunotherapy has changed to skepticism over recent decades due to its lack of efficacy, inconsistency, and significant toxicity. Of course, much of that skepticism was the result of a lack of understanding of the immune system. The recent expansion of our understanding of immunity and immune system and the success of new cancer immunotherapies has raised hope that we can treat cancer effectively via immunotherapy or combination approach using immunotherapy and other cancer therapies. Indeed, there is no doubt that cancer immunotherapy is experiencing a renaissance. Here, I will briefly review the current status of various immunotherapies, including cytokine therapy, antibody therapy, cancer vaccines, and adoptive cell therapy, and then I will summarize the results of recent clinical trials using anti-immune checkpoint monoclonal antibodies.


Cancer; Immunotherapy; Anti-immune checkpoint antibody
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