Until now, immunotherapy has relied on revving up just one arm of the immune system against tumors. But scientists reported Thursday that in animal experiments, they trained a different arm to beat back cancer, pointing to a new potential treatment pathway.
Existing cancer immunotherapies exploit the adaptive immune system. That is also what vaccines, like those being developed against Covid-19, target, by introducing a piece of a viral or bacterial invader to the adaptive system so it learns to fight that specific microbe. In contrast, the innate immune system — the one we are born with — recognizes pathogens and patterns of damage in a more general way. It was once thought to be fixed, but over the last several years, the innate system has revealed itself to be teachable, too.