What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy, also known as biologic therapy, is a treatment method that was originally developed to fight cancer, a disease characterized by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells. Immunotherapy involves stimulation of the immune system to destroy these abnormal cells. The immune system is a defense mechanism that includes the white blood cells, lymphatic system, and bone marrow, which work together to fight diseases and infection to keep your body strong and healthy.
Indications of Immunotherapy
- Colon cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Skin cancer
- Lung cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Brain tumor
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
Types of Immunotherapy
Types of immunotherapy to treat cancer include:
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors: These are medications that block the immune checkpoints which inhibit the action of the immune cells preventing them from becoming too strong and negatively affecting the body. With the blocking of the immune checkpoints, the immune system can react strongly to destroy cancerous cells.
- T-cell transfer therapy: Also known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, it is a method that involves the transfusion of certain immune cells known as T-cells into your body. These cells are taken from the blood and altered to make them more effective against the cancer cells and destroy them.
- Monoclonal antibodies: These are synthetic antibodies developed in the laboratory that mimic the properties of natural antibodies. These antibodies bind to specific proteins (antigens) present on the surface of the cancer cells so they can be easily recognized and destroyed by the immune system.
- Oncolytic virus therapy: This type of immunotherapy uses viruses that are modified in a laboratory to destroy cancer cells
- Cancer vaccines: This consists of therapeutic modified cancer cells that stimulate the immune system to destroy the cancer cells.
Administration of Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy may be provided in the form of drugs (orally), injections (intravenous, intramuscular, or subcutaneous), gels, and topical creams. The treatment may be provided every day, week, or month and the cycle may vary based on the type and severity of cancer. Rest periods will be interspersed between the treatment cycles to allow the body to recover and produce healthy cells.
Risks and Complications of Immunotherapy
Risks and complications of immunotherapy may vary based on the type of treatment provided and the response of your body, these include:
- Skin rashes
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Dry eyes
- Blood pressure variations
- Mouth sores
- Breathing difficulty
Benefits of Immunotherapy
Benefits of immunotherapy include:
- Few side effects compared to other treatment methods
- Less chance of recurrence of cancer
- Does not affects healthy cells
- Improves immune memory and may prevent the recurrence of cancer
- Can produce a durable response
- Less toxic