What is Cancer Immunotherapy?

Cancer immunotherapy is an innovative cancer treatment to help use the own human body to help fight the cancer cells. The treatment helps to enhance the immune system to fight off the abnormal cells. There are different types of immunotherapy including immunotherapy that utilize antibodies to bind and inhibit the function of proteins in cancer cells. Vaccines and T cell infusions are other common types of immunotherapy that have shown positive outcomes in the treatment of various types of cancer.

Is it the Same as Chemotherapy?

Cancer immunotherapy is different from chemotherapy because chemotherapy ends up weakening the immune system with strong drugs, while immunotherapy stimulates the immune system to fight off cancer. The two treatments work very differently to attack cancer cells. Chemotherapy is the most common treatment which helps to prevent cancer from growing too quickly. This can unfortunately also mean that healthy cells are attacked, weakening your immune system. Immunotherapy will help your immune system to become stronger by engineering T cells in a lab to attack harmful cells, leaving healthy cells alone.

Are There Side Effects to Immunotherapy?

There are side effects to immunotherapy. One of those side effect can be experiencing pain. Scientists discovered that an immunotherapy drug called Nivolumab not only targets cancer but helps to block molecule PD-L1, which causes pain. In the beginning stages, cancer is usually not painful, but as it grows the cancer often creates the molecule PD-L1 – which causes horrible pain in patients. This response to stopping pain happens in minutes, which will help future cancer patients who are dealing with pain. Other side effects to immunotherapy that are common are: fever, chills, nausea, fatigue and loss of appetite. Side effects that are rare may include: heart damage, severe onset diabetes and severe allergic reactions.

How it Helps Patients

Immunotherapy helps patients when their own immune system is too weak to fight off the cancer cells itself. With different types of immunotherapy available from cancer vaccines and CAR T cell therapies, to immune checkpoint inhibitors, to monoclonal antibodies – there are many more new immunotherapy methods to fight cancer. There are numerous immunotherapy treatments – some that work to boost your overall immune system, while others that work to attack specific areas such as cells in tumors. Each type of immunotherapy has its own benefits and risks. With new cancer treatments involving immunotherapy, scientists are hoping to have more treatments to help patients become cancer-free with fewer side effects.

Types of Cancer that Are Treated

There are many different types of cancers that are currently being studied with immunotherapy. Common cancers that use immunotherapy include: brain tumors, breast cancer, AML, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, CLL, Neuroblastoma, Pancreas Cancer and Multiple Myeloma.

Strides That Were Made Recently and the Future of Cancer Immunotherapy

An advancement of 2018 would include the CAR T cell therapy, which genetically reprograms the patient’s immune cells to fight the cancer. The patient’s T cells are removed an genetically engineered in a lab. They are grown in large numbers with one objective: to kill the cancer cell. This is known as the “living therapy” with the effectiveness it has in patients. It only needs to be injected once since the T cells will multiply in the body, making the treatment even more effective.

The future of immunotherapy will continue to make advancements until cancer is a thing of the past!