Home Treatments Immunotherapy

What is immunotherapy? 

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that boosts and uses the body's own immune system to identify and attack cancer cells in the body. Several different types of immunotherapy are currently used in the treatment of cancer to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells or prevent them from spreading to other parts of the body. Immunotherapy is also be referred to as a "targeted" treatment.

Immunotherapy is currently delivered using four different methods, depending on your personalised treatment plan.

  • Intravenously – a small needle inserted directly into a vein
  • Orally - prescribed as a course of tablets or pills to swallow
  • Topically- a cream that gets rubbed into the skin
  • Intravesical- a catheter that delivers treatment directly into the bladder

All the Rutherford Cancer Centres, we offer immunotherapy within our spacious and comfortable treatment therapy suites.

Depending on the type of cancer and your personalised treatment plan, the length of immunotherapy treatment may vary. For example, when delivered intravenously, patients may spend several hours, or a full day, receiving a single treatment of immunotherapy. The length of the full immunotherapy treatment will vary depending on your individual situation.  Our consultants can provide you with more information on the types of immunotherapy we offer, which may be best for you, and how long treatment could take. 

Cancers we treat with immunotherapy

Before treatment begins, an oncologist will discuss and explain the full aim of your immunotherapy plan and if further treatment services will be required alongside it. For example, immunotherapy can be combined with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or proton beam therapy as part of a combined and personalised treatment. 

Areas of the body we currently treat using immunotherapy at the Rutherford Cancer Centres:

  • Bowel
  • Blood
  • Breast
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Gynaecological
  • Head & Neck
  • Liver
  • Lung
  • Lymphoma
  • Pancreas
  • Sarcoma
  • Skin
  • Stomach
  • Urological

*The suitability of treating certain areas of body with immunotherapy is dependent on the location and staging of the cancer. There may be other types of cancer that can be treated with immunotherapy, that are not listed above; please contact us to find out more.

How does immunotherapy work?

Our natural defences do not target cancer cells, as they can hide from the immune system. They do this by either escaping defensive cells or by producing signals to cause the immune system to ignore the cells. Aggressive cancer cells can also overwhelm the immune system, preventing it from stopping the growth of these cells, even if the immune system identifies them.


Immunotherapy works by encouraging the immune system to attack the cancer cells, and this can be achieved by making these cells recognisable to the immune system or by blocking the pathways that cancer cells use to hide from our natural antibodies.


Our immune system is our natural defence and has evolved to defend the body against diseases and infection without causing further damage to healthy cells. By using immunotherapy as a treatment, we can provide the immune system with the necessary defences to work more efficiently against cancer cells.


Immunotherapy may be useful in treating many kinds of cancers, but may not be effective for everyone. Our consultants and clinical teams will be available to discuss potential benefits of immunotherapy with you and if it may be suited to your needs.


Types of immunotherapy we offer:

At the Rutherford Cancer Centres, we offer different types of immunotherapy, some of these include:

  • Checkpoint inhibitors
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Immune system modulators

You can find out more about these types of immunotherapy treatments on the Macmillan Cancer Support website.

The benefits of immunotherapy

Although immunotherapy can cause side effects, it can be beneficial to patients in specific circumstances. Everyone is different, and the benefits you see from having immunotherapy will differ to others, here are some common benefits:

  • It helps your own immune system attack cancer cells
  • It may be effective where other treatments are not an option
  • It boosts your immune system, enabling it to get the best out of other treatments
  • It may help keep your immune system active during and following chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment

An overview of how immunotherapy works

Immunotherapy, also known as targeted therapy, helps target cancer cells through using your body's own immune system. Find out more by watching this video by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Watch the video

Excellent staff, service. King and approachable at all times. Very supportive.

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

September 2019

The staff at Rutherford have been excellent every time I visited - no complaints at all during my treatment.

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

August 2019

Very helpful and friendly, excellent!

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

August 2019

What a lovely, warm and relaxing place to be, when you're maybe not your best and don't feel like going through the things you need to. The staff are fab and help with everything, they make you feel human again!

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

August 2019

Absolutely lovely, friendly warm welcome from everybody we saw, couldn't ask for anymore.

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

July 2019

Friendly staff, nice location/setting.

Patient Feedback - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

July 2019

We're here for you

It’s important that you feel supported, not only during your treatment but also afterwards, to give your body the best possible chance to heal.

After treatments your recovery will be supported by regular follow-up checks with your consultant. These will vary depending on the area of your body that's been treated, and the amount of treatment you've received. Follow-up appointments are used to help keep track of your recovery, so if you have any concerns you will have the opportunity to discuss them with your consultant.

The diagnosis of cancer combined with possible side effects can affect how you feel. Your treatment team is here to support you, and we encourage you to talk to us. Sometimes just talking about your emotions can be of great help and if necessary, we can arrange for further advice and support.

Macmillan Cancer Support offers a wide range of information and support, as well as help with your practical, emotional, and financial needs. All telephone helplines are free and confidential, and interpreting services are also available.

If you have cancer, it's understandable you might be worried about coronavirus. Here is the latest guidance from Macmillan.

Freephone: 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 8.00pm)

General information for patients having immunotherapy

If you would like to know more about immunotherapy, including how it works, its benefits and possible side effects; please download our patient guide.

Download General info - immunotherapy(pdf)

Frequently asked questions

Immunotherapy drugs act on the immune system and may cause inflammation in certain parts of the body. Some side effects begin during treatment, but they can sometimes happen months after the last treatment session. It’s important that any side effects are treated when they occur, our treatment staff will always be on hand to advise patients on managing them and provide relief of symptoms.

We currently offer immunotherapy at our centres in the North East, South Wales,  and Thames Valley.

International patients can also travel to the UK to be treated at the Rutherford, where we offer a full concierge service, to make it as seamless as possible for any patients travelling to us. More information on this can be found on our international patients page.

The total cost of immunotherapy treatment is unique to a patient's individual needs, including the area affected and the length of treatment. There is no one-size-suits-all pricing bracket; instead, a personalised cancer treatment plan will be built for every patient that comes to Rutherford Cancer Centres. Please contact us for more information.

Get in Touch

If you'd like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

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