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Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that helps your immune system to battle cancer. It is a type of biological therapy and this type of treatment uses constituents made from living organisms to treat cancer. It can be done in a couple of ways comprising stimulating your own immune system to work harder or smarter to attack cancer cells or by giving your immune system components, such as man-made immune system proteins.

In the last few decades, immunotherapy has become an important part of treating some types of cancer. Newer types of immune treatments are now being tested and undergoing research, and they will impact how cancer is treated in the future.

Types of Immunotherapy

The main forms of immunotherapy now being used to treat cancer include:

  • Immune checkpoint therapy helps cancer-fighting immune cells, called T cells, mount a longer-lasting response against cancer.
  • Adoptive cellular therapy increases the number and/or effectiveness of immune cells, usually T cells, which improves the power of the immune response against cancer.
  • Monoclonal antibodies, which are man-made versions of immune system proteins. These drugs are designed to bind to specific targets in the body and causes an immune response that destroys cancer cells.
  • Cancer vaccines are substances put into the body to boost your immune system’s response to cancer cells.  Vaccines do not directly prevent cancer but are used to treat specific cancers and prevent conditions that may cause cancer.

Each type of immunotherapy has distinct effects. Moreover, certain immunotherapies are more effective for some types of cancer than others. A patient’s overall health and type of cancer determines which immunotherapies are suitable to them.

Sometimes two different types of immunotherapies are combined during treatment. Other times, single immunotherapy is used with another type of therapy, such as chemotherapy. These combination approaches are used to improve treatment.

How Immunotherapy is given?

  • Oral – in the form of pills or capsules
  • Intravenous – treatment given through a vein

Side effects of Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy has its side effects as well which affects people in different ways. The rare occurrence of side effects may include allergic reactions.

Common side effects may include skin reactions at needle site such as:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • redness
  • rash or itchiness

You may also experience flu-like symptoms eg.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle or joint aches,
  • Fatigue or trouble breathing

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