The number of people diagnosed with cancer is increasing every year, as is the number of new treatments for the disease. Immunotherapy is one of the new and innovative ways to treat cancer; it is also one of the most promising. Immunotherapy treatment is any method that stimulates the patient’s immune system to fight cancer cells. Various methods that fall under the immunotherapy umbrella have proven successful in treating certain types of cancer, with others still being tested and researched. Understanding the different types of immunotherapy can help you decide if this type of treatment is right for you or your loved one.
What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses your own immune system to fight cancer cells. When your immune system is normal, it protects your body against infections and other diseases. When a person has cancer, their immune system does not work properly. Immunotherapy can be used to treat many types of cancer. In these cases, it can help in enhancing the patient’s immune response against cancer cells.
Types of Immunotherapy
Different types of immunotherapy include:
- Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL)-based therapy, is a personalized treatment tailored to each patient’s specific type of cancer. TILs are immune cells extracted from each patient’s tumor and used to make vaccines that enhance the patient’s immune response to cancer cells.
- Cytotoxic vaccines. This vaccine contains a protein extracted from the patient’s own tumor that has been broken down and changed to stimulate the immune system. The protein triggers an immune response that fights cancer cells.
- Bispecific antibodies, which are drugs made by linking two antibodies together. One antibody targets cancer cells while the other targets immune cells. This can help activate the immune response against cancer cells.
- Adopted cell transfer immunotherapy. This therapy involves infusion of several types of immune cells that have been extracted from the blood. These cells are specially selected and treated before being put back into the patient’s body to fight cancer cells.
Immunotherapy Side Effects
Immunotherapy can cause side effects, although each can vary in severity and frequency. Some of the most common side effects of immunotherapy:
- Fatigue. It is one of the most common side effects of most cancer treatments and can occur in up to 90% of patients undergoing immunotherapy. Fatigue can be debilitating and can make everyday activities very difficult.
- Fever. This is another common side effect caused by the immune system responding to the presence of cancer cells.
- Infection. Patients undergoing immunotherapy may have a weakened immune system, putting them at higher risk of infection.
- Hair loss: This is one of the most common side effects of cytotoxic vaccine-type immunotherapy.
- Nausea. This is another common side effect of cytotoxic vaccine-type immunotherapy. There are also other types of immunotherapy that can cause nausea, including the use of bispecific antibodies.
- Redness and swelling at the site where the immunotherapy was administered. This is a common side effect caused by high levels of immune cells present in the area where the immunotherapy is given.
- Skin reactions: This is also a common side effect caused by high levels of immune cells present in the area where the immunotherapy is given.
Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses your own immune system to fight cancer cells. There are different types of immunotherapy, including tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte-based therapies, cytotoxic vaccines, bispecific antibodies, and adoptive cell transfer. This treatment can cause side effects such as fatigue, fever, and hair loss.