Immune checkpoint inhibitors to treat cancer

(Excerpts edited from the American Cancer Society website)
An important part of the immune system is its ability to tell between normal cells in the body and those it sees as “foreign.” This lets the immune system attack the foreign cells while leaving the normal cells alone. To do this, it uses “checkpoints” – molecules on certain immune cells that need to be activated (or inactivated) to start an immune response.

Cancer cells sometimes find ways to use these checkpoints to avoid being attacked by the immune system. But drugs that target these checkpoints hold a lot of promise as cancer treatments.

Drugs that target PD-1 or PD-L1

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Drugs that target CTLA-4

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Because ipilimumab affects the immune system, it can sometimes cause serious or even life-threatening side effects. In fact, compared to drugs that target PD-1 or PD-L1, serious side effects seem to be more likely with ipilimumab.