One of the most asked questions and researches in the medical world, Is there a treatment for cancer? However, there is good news and supposedly ‘immunotherapy’ has become a clinically validated treatment for many types of cancers.
What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment in which medications are used to strengthen the immune system to help it fight cancer. The immune system is made of white blood cells (also called T cells), and organs and tissues of the lymph system that helps to fight pathogens and keep diseases and illnesses at bay.
Immunotherapy is a biological therapy that uses substances from living organisms to treat cancer.
Types of immunotherapy
There are several types of immunotherapy to fight cancer cells. They can either aid the immune system to fight cancer directly or stimulates the immune system in a general way.
Checkpoint Inhibitors – These drugs do not attack the tumours and prevent the T cells from directly killing the cancer cells. Instead, they inhibit the ability of the cancer cells to attack the immune system.
Adoptive cell transfer – For this treatment, doctors extract T cells from a tumour and those that are most active against cancer are grown in large batches in laboratories in 2-8 weeks time. Chemotherapies and radiation therapies are used till the T cells are injected back to your veins.
Monoclonal antibodies – These antibodies grown in laboratories are used as targeted therapy to block the abnormal protein in a cancer cell. Monoclonal antibodies are more considered to be a targeted therapy rather than immunotherapy.
Treatment Vaccines – These boost the immune system’s response to fight cancer cells.
Who can use immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is not just as widely used as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery. But they are approved to treat many different forms of cancer.
What type of cancers can be treated by immunotherapy?
Clinical trials show that immunotherapy has been a major treatment breakthrough for various cancer types. Every cancer is different as it develops in different parts of the body and attacks unique cells and tissues, therefore the way a certain type of cancer responds with immunotherapy varies from the way a different type of cancer responds.
These are some forms of cancer immunotherapy has proved to be effective:
- Bladder cancer
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Childhood cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Head and neck cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple Myeloma
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Skin cancer
- Stomach cancer
How is Immunotherapy administered?
There are a number of ways to administer immunotherapy in the body:
Intravenous – Medication goes directly into the vein
Oral – In the form of pills and capsules
Topical – Ointment to be applied on the skin and is best for early skin cancer
Intravesical – Medication goes into bladder directly
Side Effects of Immunotherapy
With all good things comes it's own disadvantages. Similarly, immunotherapy also has some side-effects and they affect different people in different ways. However, this depends on the type of cancer, its stage and the type of therapy administered.
- Pain, swelling, soreness, redness, and rash at the needle site
- Flu-like symptoms like fever and chills, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, muscle aches, trouble breathing and changes in blood pressure
- Irregular heart palpitations
- Weight gain due to fluid retention
- Sinus congestion
With the success of new treatment and therapy options being clinically trialed, we hope there will be many more cancer survival tales to tell.