Immunotherapy is a treatment method that uses your immune system to fight cancer or other diseases. Immunotherapy boosts your immune system using materials from living organisms to combat infections or cancer cells.
Are you looking for a treatment option besides chemotherapy? Find out whether you qualify for Immunotherapy at International Cancer Institute and everything you need to know.
Understanding immunotherapy and the immune system
Your body has a built-in defense mechanism against diseases, viruses, infections, or any foreign materials in the body. Your body’s defense mechanism is the immune system, which consists of white blood cells, antibodies, spleen, bone marrow, and lymphatic system, among others.
The immune system can spot and destroy infections, bad cells, and other diseases like cancer before they develop. However, you may get cancer when your immune system:
- Cannot identify the cancer cells in your body
- Identifies cancer cells but is not strong enough to fight them
- Receives signals from cancer cells preventing it from attacking the cells
Immunotherapy helps your immune system identify and destroy cancer cells.
When will a doctor recommend immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is the choice treatment for some types of cancers. However, immunotherapy cannot treat all cancers.
Some of the things doctors check before recommending immunotherapy include:
- The type of cancer
- Stage or spread of the cancer
- Previous treatments you have undertaken for cancer
In addition, you may need some additional tests of your blood sample and cancer cells to find out if the treatment will work. The tests check for changes in specific proteins or genes. The tests apply to only specific immunotherapies.
There are many clinical trials testing immunotherapy for different types of cancers.
What are the different types of Immunotherapies?
Immunotherapies fall into different treatment groups. Some therapies fall into more than one group because they work in more than one way and hence have different names.
Vaccines for cancer
Researchers are working hard to create and test vaccines to help your immune system identify and destroy cancer cells. The vaccines help the immune system check specific proteins present in cancer cells and then attack those cells.
Monoclonal Antibodies (MABs) are artificial antibodies made in a lab that works like natural antibodies. Antibodies in your immune system help fight infections. Monoclonal refers to one type. Therefore, MAB therapy refers to many duplicates of one kind of antibody.
Monoclonal Antibodies identify and attach to certain proteins in cancer cells to either activate the immune system or help the immune system destroy cancer cells.
Checkpoint inhibitors are similar to Monoclonal Antibodies. Cancer cells can produce signals that prevent the immune system from attacking them. Checkpoint inhibitors prevent these cancer cells from issuing the signals, allowing your immune system to destroy the cancer cells.
Some checkpoint inhibitors you may hear about include Atezolizumab, Avelumab, Dostarlizumab, Durvalumab, Ipilimumab, Nivolumab, Pembrolizumab, etc.
CAR T-cell Therapy
CAR T-cell therapy genetically engineers your white blood cells (T-cells) to find and destroy cancer cells. T-cell therapy can treat lymphoma in some adults and Leukemia in some children. You can also find T-cell therapy for other cancers in clinical trials.
What side effects should you expect from Immunotherapy?
The side effects of immunotherapy will vary depending on the therapy your doctor will recommend for you. The most common and general side effects across the different immunotherapies may include the following:
- Swollen or painful injection or infusion area
- Joint and muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Fever or flu-like symptoms
Your doctor will explain the specific side effects of the therapy they’ll recommend for your type of cancer.
How will you get immunotherapy?
The administration of immunotherapy depends on the type of therapy and cancer. Some of the ways your doctor may give you immunotherapy include:
- Intravenous (IV)
How long do immunotherapies take?
Your doctor will determine how long the immunotherapy takes. Some of the things they’ll take into consideration include:
- Type and stage of cancer
- The type of immunotherapy given
- How you respond to the therapy
Immunotherapies can have daily, weekly, and monthly treatments or cycles with break periods in between. A doctor will carry out physical exams and ask you some questions to find out how you are responding to the therapy. In addition, the doctor may also carry out blood tests and different scans to find out the size of the cancer and any changes in your blood work.
Getting Immunotherapy at International Cancer Institute
At International Cancer Insitute, we have adopted several immunotherapies in our patient care. We run a state-state-of-the-art laboratory that allows us to carry out all the tests required to determine if you are a suitable candidate.
At the same time, we also have several phase I, II, III, and IV clinical trials that provide a wonderful alternative to our patients from normal therapies.
Talk to us today to start yourself on one of the many immunotherapies at International Cancer Institute!
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