Cancer immunotherapy is a breakthrough treatment that has been revolutionizing cancer care over the past few years. This innovative approach to treating cancer works by harnessing the power of the immune system to fight the disease. By stimulating the body’s own natural defense system, cancer immunotherapy has been able to provide more targeted and effective treatments for many forms of cancer. This cutting-edge approach offers hope to patients who may not have been eligible for traditional treatments, and it has even been able to offer long-term remission in some cases. While cancer immunotherapy is still a relatively new field, it is becoming an increasingly popular option for cancer treatment. In this article, we will explore what cancer immunotherapy is, how it works, and why it is so promising.
What is cancer immunotherapy?
Cancer immunotherapy is a treatment that harnesses the power of the immune system to fight the disease. Cancer immunotherapy is also called biologic therapy, immuno-oncology, or immunotherapy. It is an approach that uses the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer, rather than traditional methods, like radiation or chemotherapy, which work by killing both cancer cells and healthy cells.
When we are exposed to an infection, our immune system responds by attacking the invading organisms. These invaders are detected by specialized cells that patrol the body and release proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are small molecules that help the immune system communicate with other parts of the body.
How does cancer immunotherapy work?
Cancer immunotherapy is effective for treating cancer because it can actually help the body recognize and destroy abnormal cells. This is different than other treatments, like chemotherapy, which kill both cancerous cells and healthy cells.
Basically, immunotherapy helps the immune system recognize cancer cells and signal the body to destroy them. This is done by introducing certain proteins that have been found to prompt the immune system to fight the disease.
Immunotherapy is one of the most promising treatments for cancer. It’s a treatment that essentially uses your own body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer cells within you. The aim of most cancer treatments is to kill the cancer cells within the patient. Immunotherapy, on the other hand, is aimed at actually helping the patient’s immune system to identify and attack the cancer cells.
Benefits of cancer immunotherapy
- Better outcomes – Cancer immunotherapy can often provide better outcomes than traditional treatments, like chemotherapy, due to its targeted nature. This means that only the cancerous cells will be affected, while healthy cells will remain unharmed. As a result, patients often experience fewer side effects, and the treatment can be very effective.
- Fewer treatment-related side effects – One of the most significant benefits of cancer immunotherapy is that most patients experience fewer side effects. This is because immunotherapy targets specific cells that are involved in the formation of cancer, while chemotherapy drugs affect all cells within the body.
- Improved survival rates – According to the American Cancer Society, survival rates for many types of cancer are increasing due to advancements in treatment. One of the most significant advances has been in cancer immunotherapy. These treatments have improved survival rates for many forms of cancer, such as melanoma, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer.
- Fewer treatment-related deaths – Because treatment-related side effects are typically milder, and survival rates are often higher, the mortality rate associated with treatment is also lower.
Types of cancer immunotherapy
Immunotherapy has been around for a long time, but recent developments have made it more effective than ever before. Here is a look at some of the most common types of cancer immunotherapy.
- Cancer vaccination – This type of immunotherapy begins with collecting samples of the patient’s immune cells. These cells are then exposed to antigens, substances that trigger the immune response. After being exposed to the antigens, the cells are used to make vaccines that are injected into the patient. The immune system recognizes these antigens as foreign invaders, prompting it to attack any cells with the same antigens. In the case of cancer, the immune system will target abnormal cells with the same antigens. This can be very effective when used to treat cancer that affects the immune system, such as leukemia.
- Immunotherapy drugs – These drugs can be used alone or in combination with other treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. One of the most common types of immunotherapy drugs is known as PD-1 inhibitors. These drugs help the immune system identify and attack cancer cells by blocking the PD-1 protein that acts as a tumor shield for cancer cells. Another common immunotherapy drug is Interleukin-2, which is often used in combination with other therapies.
- Immunotherapy vaccines – These vaccines are made from a patient’s own immune cells that have been exposed to certain antigens. These vaccines are then injected into the patient to prompt a strong immune response towards the cancer cells.
Side effects of cancer immunotherapy
While immunotherapy drugs can be very effective at treating cancer, they can also cause a wide variety of side effects that may be troubling for some patients. – Fatigue – This is one of the most common side effects of immunotherapy. Fatigue may be mild or severe, and it can last for weeks or months following treatment. – Inability to fight infections – Certain immunotherapy drugs actually make patients more susceptible to infections, including viral infections like the flu. Patients receiving immunotherapy drugs are often advised to get a flu shot each year and take antiviral medication when they are sick. – Inability to fight off certain cancers – Patients undergoing immunotherapy may be at risk of developing certain types of cancer. While these patients should be monitored constantly, they also have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, including bladder, colorectal, skin, and kidney cancers. – Rash – A rash is one of the most common side effects of immunotherapy drugs. It can appear on the skin, inside the mouth, or in the throat, and it typically subsides once the treatment has stopped.
Clinical trials of cancer immunotherapy
Cancer immunotherapy is a very promising field of research, and much of that research is conducted through clinical trials. In fact, clinical trials are one of the most significant ways scientists learn more about this treatment. – What are clinical trials? – Clinical trials are research studies that investigate new cancer treatments. They are conducted by medical researchers and oncologists who work with patients to monitor the effects of these treatments. Clinical trials are often the only way to access new and innovative treatments that are not yet available to the public. – Types of clinical trials – Clinical trials can be divided into two categories: Phase I trials and Phase II trials. Phase I trials are designed to test the safety and efficacy of new treatments. They involve a small group of patients who receive one of two different treatments. One treatment is the experimental treatment being tested, while the other is a standard treatment that is already approved. Phase II trials are larger, more in-depth studies that compare two or more treatments to each other. – Some clinical trials are open to the public, while others are limited to specific groups. Some of these groups include people who have a specific type of cancer, people who have not responded to common treatments, and people who are receiving treatment with certain types of drugs.
Cost of cancer immunotherapy
Immunotherapy is a newer form of treatment, and it is often priced higher than traditional chemotherapy. According to a report from the American Cancer Society, the average cost of chemotherapy is $100,000 per year. Immunotherapy drugs, on the other hand, cost roughly $100,000 per month — and can be much higher depending on the type of treatment.
The cost of cancer immunotherapy can vary greatly depending on the type and dosage of drugs being used, as well as the type of treatment being administered. The average cost of immunotherapy is between $84,000 and $90,000 per year. This may seem like a high cost, but it’s important to remember that many patients will respond well to the treatment and be able to stop the drugs after a few years.