Your immune system is made up of specialized organs and cells spread throughout your body. You probably know your immune system defends against bacteria and viruses, but it also defends against abnormal cells, including cancer cells. When your immune system recognizes a threat, it becomes activated to attack it.
Immunotherapy is the use of medicines that help your immune system find and destroy cancer.
Although the immune system can recognize and destroy cancer cells under certain circumstances, cancer cells usually adapt and hide from the immune system. Hidden cancer cells can grow and divide unchecked, ultimately forming a tumor. Cancer cells can hide by changing to avoid being recognized by the immune system, or they can turn the immune system off to avoid being destroyed. Your immune system includes “off switches” to help prevent an activated immune system from becoming too strong and damaging healthy tissues. Many cancers can use these off switches, which are known as immune checkpoints. A group of medicines, called checkpoint inhibitors, has been developed to restore the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. However, not all cancers can be treated with these medicines, and they don’t always work for patients who are treated with them. There is a need for new types of immunotherapies to help the immune system fight cancer.
Lerapolturev is a new type of cancer medicine being developed alone and in combination with checkpoint inhibitors to generate antitumor immunity—in other words, it helps the immune system recognize and fight cancer. It does this in 3 ways:
Lerapolturev infects and directly destroys cancer cells
Lerapolturev helps the immune system recognize and attack the cancer cells by activating certain immune cells to signal the immune system to respond, in effect “waking up” the immune system to the cancer
Since lerapolturev is based on the polio vaccine, its effects are strengthened by our immune system’s recognition, or recall, of the polio vaccine that most people received during childhood
Lerapolturev is now being studied in several different types of cancer. You can find out more about these clinical trials here.