What is immunotherapy? Does this treatment modality have the potential to restore your health? Every day, cancer immunology specialists create treatments that help your immune system work harder to attack cancer cells effectively. Making informed decisions about cancer immunotherapy as a treatment option is easier if you know how it works, what to expect from the treatment, and if the available therapies are suitable for your care.
What Is Immunotherapy for Cancer?
What is immunotherapy for cancer? How does it work to defeat malignancy in your body? Could this treatment be right for you? Immune therapy stimulates your natural defenses, so your immune system is better equipped to find and attack cancer cells. Lab-created substances that mimic parts of your immune system can improve your body’s ability to fight cancer. Immunotherapy treatment can be used alone or with other cancer treatments depending on your type of disease.
Types of Immunotherapy
Many types of immunotherapy are available now, and studies for new immune therapies are ongoing. The kind of cancer immunotherapy you receive depends on the type and progression of your disease. The immunotherapies in use today work in a variety of ways. Checkpoint inhibitors remove barriers that prevent your immune system from identifying and laying siege to cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs or MoAbs) are synthetic immune system proteins that can be designed to target a particular part of a cancer cell. Cytokine treatment encourages your immune system to attack cancer using small proteins that transmit messages between cells. Cancer vaccines put your immune system on alert so it can prevent or treat cancer.
Other treatment modalities use viruses for good. Chimeric antigen receptor therapy, also known as CAR-T-cell therapy, mixes T-cells taken from your blood with a virus that instructs the T-cells to find, attach to, and kill your tumor cells. Oncolytic viruses are lab-modified viruses that can infect and destroy specific tumor cells.
Immunotherapy vs. Chemotherapy
Immunotherapy cancer treatment enhances and strengthens your immune response so that your immune system will locate and kill cancer cells. Immune therapy may take time to work, but the payoff can be long-term cancer remission. The immune system’s ability to remember a cancer cell’s identifying markers enables your body to fight the disease independently.
Chemotherapy directly attacks rapidly dividing cancer cells, but it can also damage or kill normal cells during the tumor-fighting process. If your body responds to chemotherapy, it works immediately. Unfortunately, the effects of chemotherapy stop when treatment ends.
Finding the best treatment plan isn’t always a matter of weighing the benefits of immunotherapy vs. chemotherapy. Sometimes, when a particular type or dose of chemotherapy heightens the body’s immune response against cancer cells, doctors combine that treatment with immune therapy.
How Effective is Immunotherapy?
Cancer immunology is concerned with understanding the relationship between cancer and the immune system. This promising field is essential to scientists who develop new cancer treatments. Overall, favorable response rates for immune therapies range from 15% to 20%. Immunotherapies may or may not work exceptionally well for your cancer. Sometimes, treatment fails to provoke the correct immune response.
Who Qualifies for Immunotherapy?
Can your cancer be treated with immunotherapy? The answer may be “yes” if the available therapies align with your cancer’s type, stage, and biomarkers. Genomic testing can find PD-L1 expression, high tumor mutational burden, and high microsatellite instability. Immunotherapy may extend your life if you have metastatic or advanced non-small cell lung cancer. If you’re in remission from non-metastatic cancer, your chances of relapse may be reduced. If your cancer is advanced and unresponsive to conventional treatment, you may be able to participate in an immunotherapy cancer treatment clinical trial.
Who qualifies for immunotherapy? Unfortunately, this type of treatment is not suitable for every patient. If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder, your body will not tolerate this treatment. Immunotherapy for cancer stimulates your body’s immune response and T-cell production, which can worsen the effects of your disease, create toxic side effects, or cause your body to attack its essential tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and lupus all counter-indicate cancer immunotherapy as an appropriate treatment.
The Promise of Immunotherapy for Cancer
Cancer immunotherapy encompasses a promising set of treatments that have the potential to improve and lengthen your life. Many types of immunotherapy are available today, and more are on the way. Your doctors now have more cancer treatment options than ever before. Immunotherapy cancer treatment helps your body help itself, and its lasting effects can give you hope for long-term remission or cure. Educating yourself and speaking to trusted professionals during your treatment journey is essential. You should have every opportunity to survive cancer.
At Nashville Oncology, our providers are known for their excellence in oncology care. We treat a wide range of conditions, creating a personalized plan that meets the needs of our patients and their families. Contact us to learn more or schedule an appointment.