Immunotherapy and Side effects

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer and infections. It is a kind of biological therapy that uses substances made from living organisms to treat cancer. Immunotherapy is offering additional treatment options for patients with esophagus cancer and stage 4 colon cancer.

How is it different from chemotherapy?  
Happy family ankr after Immunotherapy

Unlike chemotherapy, which acts directly on cancerous tumors, Immunotherapy works on the immune system.

Chemotherapy attacks rapidly dividing cells, including cancerous and non-cancerous cells. The attack on healthy cells may cause some the side effects, such as hair loss and nausea. In contrast, Immunotherapy’s potential side effects usually result from an overstimulated or misdirected immune response. It can range from mild or moderate or severe and can become potentially life-threatening under certain circumstances.

Chemotherapy treatments shrink targeted tumors immediately. Immunotherapy may take longer to fetch the effects as the immune system is mobilized to attack tumors.

Chemotherapy treatment effect lasts as long as the drugs remain in the body. Immunotherapy can provide long-term protection against cancer due to the immune system’s ability to recognize and remember cancer cells.

For which cancers is it used? 

Immunotherapy is not as standard as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. However, Immunotherapy is beneficial for the following cancers:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Melanoma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Skin cancer

Not all patients are eligible for Immunotherapy. It depends on various factors, including the genetic makeup of the tumor cells, the cancer advancement, and response to previous treatments.

Common immune therapy medications 

There are four types of immunotherapies.

Monoclonal antibodies and tumor-agnostic treatments (checkpoint inhibitors)

In this, we have like contains the following immunomodulators

Ipilimumab (Yervoy)

Nivolumab (Opdivo)

Pembrolizumab (Keytruda)

Atezolizumab (Tecentriq)

Avelumab (Bavencio)

Durvalumab (Imfinzi)

Checkpoint inhibitors immunotherapy research offers new hope to advance prostate cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, and lung cancer patients.

Oncolytic virus therapy

This type of Immunotherapy uses artificially modifications of viruses to destroy cancer cells. The virus does not enter healthy cells. Oncolytic viruses are a group of viruses that includes viruses found in nature as well as viruses modified in the laboratory to reproduce efficiently in cancer cells without harming healthy cells. When a virus infects a tumor cell, the virus makes copies of itself until the cell bursts. The dying cancer cell releases materials, such as tumor antigens, that allow cancer to be recognized, or “seen,” by the immune system.

To date, only one oncolytic virus, a genetically modified form of a herpes virus for treating melanoma has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A number of viruses can be potential treatments for cancer in clinical trials. some oncolytic viruses may work at least in part by triggering an immune response in the body against cancer.

Oncolytic virus therapy is beneficial for patients with melanoma and thoracic cancer.

T-cell therapy

The human immune system cells include B cells, T cells, plasma cells, neutrophils, and monocytes. T-cells (Thymus cells) appear in the bone marrow but complete their development in the thymus, a specialized organ of the immune system in the chest.

T-cell therapy is a type of treatment in which a patient’s T cells (a type of immune system cell) undergo modification in the laboratory to attack cancer cells. T cells are taken from a patient’s blood. Then the gene for a special receptor that binds to a certain protein on the patient’s cancer cells is added to the T cells in the laboratory. The special receptor is known as a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). Large numbers of the CAR T cells are grown in the laboratory to infuse in the patient.

CAR T-cell therapy is useful to treat certain blood cancers. CAR T is beneficial to treat acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) in kids and young adults and certain types of adult non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If chemotherapy and stem cell transplants don’t work after at least two tries or cancer comes back after treatment, CAR T may be an option.

Cancer vaccines

A vaccine exposes the immune system to a foreign protein called an antigen which triggers the immune system to recognize and destroy the antigen. There are two types of cancer vaccines: prevention vaccines and treatment vaccines.

Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) uses weakened bacteria to stimulate the immune system; approved for early-stage bladder cancer.

Side effects of immunotherapy 

Immunotherapy may cause side effects when the immune system is undergoing revival to act against cancer.

Common side effects of Immunotherapy. 

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Soreness
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Rash
  • Dry skin 
  • Blister

 Sometimes flu-like symptoms, which include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Trouble breathing
  • Low or high blood pressure
Other side effects might include:
  • Swelling and weight gain from retaining fluid
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sinus congestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Infection
  • Organ inflammation
Is immunotherapy right for you?

Not all patients are eligible for Immunotherapy. It depends on various factors, including the genetic makeup of the tumor cells, the cancer advancement, and response to previous treatments.

You are an ideal candidate for Immunotherapy if:

  • Genomic testing reveals positive biomarkers for PD-L1 expression, high microsatellite instability, or high tumor mutational burden.
  • You have advanced cancer. 
  • You’ve exhausted the options for conventional treatment.
  • You have non-small cell lung cancer, especially metastatic or at an advanced stage. Studies show that patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer who respond to Immunotherapy can live longer.
Some immunotherapy success stories

Around 20 to 50 percent of patients treated with immunotherapy have a durable response to cancer shows this treatment’s potential.

In August 2015, 90-year-old 39th President of the US, Jimmy Carter, was diagnosed with melanoma that had spread to his liver and brain. His doctors used a new approach that combined radiation with immunotherapy. Radiation damages and kills cancer cells. Such cells attract the attention of immune cells. Jimmy Carter received pembrolizumab (KeytrudaⓇ), anti-PD-1 checkpoint immunotherapy, to support his immune system’s response and help it to completely eliminate cancer. Three months after Carter first began receiving immunotherapy, he found out that his tumors were gone. Success stories like Jimmy Carter’s cancer immunotherapy story reveal that immunotherapy can help older patients.

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