Types of cancer immunotherapy

Immunotherapy uses our immune system to fight cancer. It works by helping the immune system recognise and attack cancer cells.

There are different types of immunotherapy. Some of these are also called targeted therapies or biological therapies.

Monoclonal antibodies (MABs)

Some MABs have an effect on the immune system. So as well as being a targeted cancer drug, they are also a type of immunotherapy.

Checkpoint Inhibitors

Checkpoint inhibitors are a type of immunotherapy that block different checkpoint proteins. Examples include pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and ipilimumab (Yervoy).


Cytokines are a group of proteins that are found naturally in the body. They help to boost the immune system. Man made versions of these proteins are a treatment for cancer.

Vaccines to treat cancer

Unlike vaccines to prevent disease, cancer treatment vaccines are for people who already have cancer. These vaccines are mainly available as part of clinical trials. 

CAR T-cell therapy

You might hear CAR T-cell therapy called a type of adoptive cell transfer. It's a possible treatment for some children with leukaemia and some adults with lymphoma. 

Last reviewed: 
20 Jan 2021
Next review due: 
17 Jan 2024
Coronavirus and cancer

We know it’s a worrying time for people with cancer, we have information to help.

Read our information about coronavirus and cancer