We tend to think that immunotherapy is a very recent medical achievement, originating no later than a couple of decades ago. As a matter of fact, the very beginning of immunotherapy sensu lato might be traced back to the China’s Qin dynasty period, around the third century BC. Although difficult to prove, scarce written resources mention purposeful inoculation with variola minor virus in order to prevent smallpox disease (1, 2). Many centuries later, in 1718, this practice was also reported in the Ottoman Empire by Lady Mary Wortley Montague, the wife of the British ambassador residing in Istanbul (1). Inspired by local custom and its positive outcome, she tried to popularize inoculation on her return to England but met with no success due to the resistance and general disbelief of British physicians. Nevertheless, in 1765, Dr. John Fewster presented a similar report in front of the London Medical Society members . Not long after that, in 1796, Edward Jenner demonstrated protective immunity against smallpox through inoculation with common cowpox virus. This event was largely accepted as the beginning of the vaccinations era which undoubtedly transformed modern medicine and saved millions of lives worldwide.
The history of vaccinations, no matter how appealing and wonderful, will not be described in detail in this paper. Instead, we will track the relatively modern part of the history of immunotherapy, immunotherapy sensu stricte, focusing on cancer treatment from the very first attempts up to the 2018 Nobel Prize winners James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation