Immunotherapy is also known in the medical profession biologic therapy, and it is essentially a life-saving treatment method which increases the natural defences of the human body to fight cancer. The agents used might be made in vitro or inside the human body and will be introduced to you if you acquire one of these diseases.

Methods of Action –

 Immunotherapy works in a number of ways:

  1. Slowing the growth of the cancer cells themselves
  2. Keeping cancer contained to a single part of the body
  3. Aiding the immune system to better fight and destroy cancer cells

What Types of Immunotherapy are There?

1. Tumour-agnostic therapies and Monoclonal Antibodies –

Antibodies are proteins that the body naturally can produce when it detects something harmful. That is the immune system, but monoclonal antibodies are made in a laboratory in order to target specific cancer proteins and destroy them. Also, another application for these antibodies is to block immune checkpoints such as PD-1/PD-L1 and CTLA-4 pathways which are critical to the immune process.

2. Non-specific Immunotherapies –

These variations are often given to you in concert with other cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy to join together in destroying cancer cells.

Interferon – This is one of the most prevalent non-specific, Interferon-alpha is the most common of these (Roferon-A [2a], Intron A [2b], Alferon [2a]) and can cause some side effects such as thinning hair, increased infection risk, rashes, and flu-like symptoms.

Interleukins – These are the second most common non-specific cancer treatments. Proleukin is one of these that combat kidney and skin cancer (melanoma) by causing the immune system to make more cells to fight with. Some side effects might include lower blood pressure, weight gain, and flu-like symptoms.

3. Oncolytic Virus Therapy –

Viruses can be genetically modified and then injected into a tumour in order to kill cancer. It then replicates itself inside cancer cells until they burst. As they die, they release antigens that the body’s immune system then begins to recognize to target other harmful cells throughout the body, but healthy cells are not targeted. T-VEC is one such oncolytic virus approved by the FDA in 2015 for melanoma. It is an altered Herpes Simplex virus that ordinarily causes cold sores in people. This can help remove areas that a surgeon cannot reach. Some side effects that could manifest see fatigue, chills, nausea, fever, flu-like symptoms, and pain where injected.

4. T-cell Therapy –

In this type of therapy, the body’s natural T cells, which are of the immune system to fight infection, are taken out if the blood and modified. They will then have receptors to target cancer, and one successful approach like this is chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for blood cancers. Modern research is still finding further methods to alter T cells.

5. Cancer Vaccines –

These vaccines purposefully expose the body to cancer antigens so that it builds a defence and immunity. There are prevention vaccines and also treatment vaccines.

Immunotherapy treatment is still an exciting field in terms of building defences and creating more life-saving approaches. There are many more novel drugs that can be looked into further depending on the cancer type that one is dealing with.

There are some good questions that you might ask your medical team to see if it is right for your case:

  1. How often will I receive immunotherapy and in what manner?
  2. What are the treatment’s goals?
  3. What type do you recommend, and why?
  4. Will other treatment regimens be used as well?

Good luck with your battle against this life-changing ailment!