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The science behind hope

Immunotherapy is a dramatic shift in how we fight cancer. It’s not chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. Instead, it is a therapy that uses the power of your body’s own immune system to find and destroy tumors. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) physicians and researchers are leaders in discovering new ways to give your immune system the upper hand against cancer — making immunotherapy the science behind hope.

We provide the medicines of tomorrow, today.

Renato G. Martins, MDMedical Director, Thoracic and Head and Neck Oncology

What is immunotherapy?

Your immune system’s job is to protect your body against foreign invaders, like bacteria and tumors. Cancer can hide from the immune system and even trick the immune cells into helping — rather than harming — the tumors. Immunotherapy uses your immune system’s own fighting power to attack cancer. The body becomes part of the solution, putting immune cells back in control.

Immunotherapy can be used on its own or along with traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Immunotherapy offers doctors and patients a new and powerful treatment option.

How does immunotherapy work?

Immunotherapy can range from a drug to boost the immune system to re-engineering immune cells to fight cancer. These therapies show great promise, often in cases where cancer has been very advanced and where other known therapies have failed.

David G. Maloney, MD, PhD Medical Director, Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic

The two leading forms of immunotherapy based on research from SCCA are cellular immunotherapy and checkpoint inhibitors. Cellular immunotherapy involves taking immune cells from your body — sometimes re-engineering them to recognize and fight cancer — and replacing them back into your body in large numbers.

Checkpoint inhibitors work by teaching immune cells to target and attack the pathways where cancer grows. Tumor cells can hide themselves by sending false signals to immune cell “checkpoints” so that they look harmless. Checkpoint inhibitor drugs block these false signals, so the immune system isn’t tricked into ignoring tumors.

Transforming research into reality

Many of the key elements of immunotherapy have been around for decades. In fact, SCCA has known the promise of immunotherapy ever since our alliance partner, Fred Hutch, led the way in bone marrow transplantation — an early form of immunotherapy — over 40 years ago. Our world-class doctors are using immunotherapy research to bring a better reality to our patients, providing the therapies of tomorrow, today.


I was one of the first participants in a lung cancer immunotherapy drug trial at SCCA. Not only did that trial lead to the drug being available for future patients, but it saved my life.

Watch Her Story
Sunshine PeguesLung cancer patient

Saving lives with exceptional science

Many of the world’s immunotherapy experts are based at SCCA. We are leaders in turning scientific discovery into exciting new treatments that are changing the way cancer is treated. Our groundbreaking research is the foundation for many of the FDA-approved immunotherapies used across the country today.

Through our unique alliance with Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s and UW Medicine, we are able to bring our knowledge from the lab to the bedside, giving SCCA patients faster access to exceptional science.