What is immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is a treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. It uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to boost or restore the immune system. The immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body from infection. Certain types of immunotherapies attack cancer or slow its spread to other areas of the body. Others make it easier for the immune system to destroy cancer cells. We may recommend immunotherapy after or concurrently with another treatment, such as chemotherapy. Immunotherapy may also be used by itself.
What are the types of immunotherapy?
There are several types of immunotherapies including monoclonal antibodies, cancer vaccines, oncotic virus therapy, T-cell therapy, and non-specific immunotherapies. Monoclonal antibodies act like the antibodies that your body produces naturally to fight harmful substances. They’re designed to target a specific protein in the cancer cells. Most of the latest immunotherapies utilize monoclonal antibodies. Some monoclonal antibodies are checkpoint inhibitors. Checkpoint inhibitors are a specific type of cancer treatment that allows the immune system to destroy cancer cells. Other types of immunotherapy may deliver small radiation doses or other cancer drugs to the cancer cell. Cancer vaccines that treat cancer are still uncommon, but many are being studied in clinical trials. A cancer vaccine exposes the immune system to an antigen. This triggers the immune system to recognize and destroy that antigen or related materials. Examples of non-specific immunotherapies include interferon and interleukins.
What are the side effects of immunotherapy?
Different immunotherapies have varying side effects. Each person’s experience depends on the cancer’s type and location, treatment dose, and overall health. Preventing and controlling side effects is a major focus of your health care team at Alive 4 Health. Side effects from monoclonal antibody treatment can include rashes, low blood pressure, and flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, weakness, and vomiting. We will be with you and provide support every step of the way on your road to recovery. Non-specific immunotherapies can also cause flu-like symptoms, as well as an increased risk of infection, rashes, and thinning hair. Most side effects go away after treatment.