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What is Dendritic Cell Therapy?

By Jennifer Long
Updated May 17, 2024
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Immunotherapy is a method of treatment for many diseases that works with the body’s immune system to suppress, enhance, or induce response to antigens, such as cancer cells. This type of treatment is also known as cell-based immunotherapy, virotherapy, and cancer immunotherapy. Dendritic cell therapy uses a type of immune system cells, called dendritic cells. It is a common cancer treatment.

Cancer occurs because the immune system has stopped functioning the way it should. Cancer cells are not recognized as foreign bodies, so they are not destroyed. They are free to multiply, mutate, and wreak havoc. Tumors start appearing when cancer cells create clusters. Dendritic cell therapy can help treat cancer and also work as a cancer prevention method.

Dendritic cells only play a small role in the function of the immune system, but it is an important role. The dendritic cell must recognize antigens in the body. After that, the cells must then process and mark the antigens so that T cells can take over. The presence of dendritic cells in a cancer patient is not in large enough amounts to trigger the immune system. Cells that are vital to triggering action from T cells do not exist.

A patient's own blood cells are used in dendritic cell therapy. The blood cells are used to create dendritic cells. These dendritic cell vaccines are then given to the patient, which provides the dendritic cells. While some of the cells will circulate around the body, most of them will stimulate T cells and start the process of killing cancer cells.

Another form of dendritic cell therapy does not actually involve creating dendritic cells, and instead only helps stimulate the growth of immature cells. Some forms of cancer and other diseases do not exist because there is a complete lack of dendritic cells, but rather because the cells do not mature enough to do their jobs. For these cases, dendritic cells are harvested and treated to incubate and grow and then they are reintroduced to the patient.

This type of immunotherapy can be used to treat several different illnesses. While cancer is one of the main diseases that have positive results, patients with other conditions, such as AIDS, have also seen positive results. There are many conditions that do not have permanent cures, and treatments make them less fatal. Some advanced forms of cancer and AIDS cases need treatment for symptoms to prolong life. Dendritic cell therapy can help meet this goal.

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