What is Immunotherapy for Cancer?
Immunotherapy as a cancer treatment consists of medications and programs that improve or restore the body’s innate immune functions to fight effectively against cancer.
Modern cancer research has recognized the potential for immunotherapy and there are a number of vaccine and cell therapies approved by the health authorities of a few countries in the Americas, Asia and Europe.
In addition there are a variety of clinical trials in process or planned at reputable cancer centers in the United States and abroad. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) has already approved a few new drugs and treatment combinations that have shown success by using the immune system in treating cancer.
What are the different types of current immunotherapy for cancer?
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors – help the immune system to better distinguish between cancer cells and normal cells.
- Monoclonal antibodies – are man-made versions of immune system proteins that identify and attack specific cancer cells.
- Cancer vaccines – these potent medications activate a specific type of the body’s T-cells and signal them to recognize and attack cancer cell. The targeting is done by antibody production which then binds to the surface molecules of cancer cells.
- Cytokines – proteins, peptides, and glycoproteins called cytokines are secreted by cells of the immune system. These special molecules then regulate and mediate the immune response.
- Non-specific immunotherapy – is designed to restore the body’s overall immune functions.
How is immunotherapy for cancer administered?
Immunotherapy for cancer can be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, subcutaneously, topically, orally or injected directly into the cancer tumor.
Are there any side effects when immunotherapy is used to fight cancer?
The reaction to cancer immunotherapy application may be experienced as flu-like symptoms, nausea, diarrhea, elevated body temperature, tenderness or pain at the tumor location, or redness and swelling at the injection site.
There may also be serious life-threatening reactions, such as the auto-immune reactions, to the checkpoint inhibitors, which have recently been approved by the F.D.A.
On the other hand, the Issels immunotherapy for cancer, such as cancer vaccines and cell therapies, that are prepared from the patient’s own immune cells, have no toxic side effects and do not cause life-threatening immune system reactions.