Each day researchers are hard at work to discover brand new ways to treat cancer. Immunotherapy is one especially promising development in the treatment of patients with cancer. For some individuals at Regional Cancer Care Associates, immunotherapy is the first line of defense after diagnosis. For others, the treatment offers hope when other options fail to deliver results.
Your body has a built-in defense system against disease and illness – your immune system. The immune system detects and kills anything that doesn’t belong, like viruses and harmful bacteria.
But the immune system doesn’t work the same way when it comes to cancer. Cancer cells play tricks on your body’s natural defenses. And sometimes, your immune system just isn’t strong enough to get rid of cancer on its own.
That’s where immunotherapy comes in. Immunotherapy strengthens your immune system and gives it the tools and the power it needs to kill off cancer cells and get you on the road to recovery.
Since the immune system is made up of many different parts, there are many different types of immunotherapy treatments. One type is known as monoclonal antibodies. Antibodies mark bad cells, so that your body knows which ones to kill. During immunotherapy treatment, you receive a man-made version of these antibodies that is designed to target specific cells, in this case, the cancer.
Another type is called T-cell therapy. T-cells are the part of your immune system that eliminates threats to your well-being. For patients with leukemia or lymphoma, T-cell therapy can help push the body to seek out and kill certain cancer cells.
Other types of immunotherapy include vaccines, checkpoint inhibitors and overall immune system boosts. Your doctor will review your medical history and discuss the best options based on your current needs.
Right now, immunotherapy is an effective course of treatment for leukemia, kidney cancer, lymphoma, lung cancer, skin cancer and prostate cancer, among others. But new developments in immunotherapy are making it a viable option for other types of cancers, as well.
Most of the drugs are injected directly into your vein, swallowed in a pill form or rubbed onto your skin in a cream form. Since immunotherapy is more targeted, you won’t experience as much nausea, vomiting or hair loss as you might with chemotherapy.
However, there are some side effects that range from minor flu-like symptoms to more serious infections. Your doctor will monitor you closely for reactions to ensure that your treatments are safe and effective.
While immunotherapy is an exciting option for cancer treatment, only your doctor can determine whether it is the right path for you based on the specific demands of your individual case. However, when most patients receive immunotherapy, it’s usually in combination with other treatments, like surgery and radiation, to ensure optimal results.
One of the most effective ways to treat cancer is to harness the power of the body’s own immune system. This method is called immunotherapy.
Regional Cancer Care Associates is one of fewer than 200 medical practices in the country selected to participate in the Oncology Care Model (OCM); a recent Medicare initiative aimed at improving care coordination and access to and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries undergoing chemotherapy treatment.