Our Approach to Treatment

Physician-scientists at Houston Methodist Cancer Center are among leading researchers worldwide studying methods and treatments to coax the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. Our specialists are working to successfully stimulate the immune system to kill cancer cells without the toxicity and side effects associated with more traditional therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy.

Today, Houston Methodist’s doctors have a much better understanding of the genomic makeup and mutations of cancer cells and how immune cells can be “switched on” to attack advanced cancers, including breast and lung cancers, which may not respond to chemotherapy. We are hunting for immunotherapies and combinations of treatments to improve more patients’ cancer remission and survival rates.


Our oncologists are spearheading groundbreaking work in immunotherapy, a chemotherapy alternative that could unlock less toxic methods to fight cancer. Clinical trials involving immunotherapy and other novel treatments are underway at multiple Houston Methodist Cancer Center locations across Greater Houston.

Our dedicated doctors, nurses and medical staff value the state-of-the-art care and therapies we already provide, and continually strive to advance discoveries. We are committed to research and clinical trials that could improve cancer care. 

Houston Methodist’s oncologists forge personal connections with our cancer patients and their families under intense circumstances. Our patients’ battles inspire our specialists to find better and less toxic ways to fight cancer, including immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy Definition

Researchers design therapies to help the immune system recognize cancer cells and strengthen its response to destroy them. Houston Methodist uses immunotherapy to treat certain cancers, including breast, lung and head and neck cancers.

Immunotherapy Types

The American Cancer Society has identified and defined the following immunotherapies:

  • Monoclonal antibodies – lab-created proteins that act like the immune system’s antibodies and are designed to:
    • Make cancer cells more obvious to the immune system
    • Block growth factor receptors that enable cancer cells to multiply
    • Carry radioactive particles to cancer cells
    • Deliver drugs to cancer cells
  • Cancer vaccines – given to cause an immune response to a specific disease, such as the vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer
  • Nonspecific immunotherapies – therapies that energize the immune system to fight cancer or prevent cancer recurrence

Immunotherapy Side Effects

  • Rashes
  • Flu-like symptoms – fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, weakness and nausea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Breathing problems
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Thinning hair