For many years, there were only three ways to treat cancer: chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. But recently, a new form of cancer treatment has become increasingly popular. It’s called immunotherapy, and doctors at RCCA believe it’s transforming the practice of oncology and will continue to do so in the future.
Most patients with cancer receive chemotherapy, a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Immunotherapy, on the other hand, doesn’t target the cancer directly. Instead, it harnesses the power of a person’s immune system to fight back against the cancer. Normally, cancer cells are smart and know how to hide from our immune system. But through immunotherapy treatments, the immune system learns how to identify cancer cells and kill them.
In some cases, immunotherapy is even more effective than chemotherapy. And while chemotherapy is very effective in its own right, it can also have problematic side effects. According to Mount Holly, NJ oncologist Dr. James Lee, chemotherapy ultimately kills cancer cells and healthy cells. “As a result,” he explains, “this causes a lot of the side effects seen with chemo, such as low blood counts, nausea and vomiting, hair loss and an increased risk of infection.” In contrast, immunotherapy tends to elicit milder, short-term flu-like symptoms.
Immunotherapy Offers Hope to Patients
For those who are eligible for immunotherapy, it opens up the door for more treatment options, including more clinical trials. The cancer types that respond best to immunotherapy are lung cancer, metastatic melanoma, metastatic kidney cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma and cancers of the head and neck. However, only your oncologist can determine which form of treatment is most appropriate for your needs.
“Here in Mount Holly,” says Dr. Lee, “I have patients on immunotherapy who have achieved continuous control of their cancer for two years or longer. Not everybody responds to this type of treatment, but for those who do, the results can be quite impressive.”
The first immunotherapy treatment, or checkpoint inhibitor, was approved by the FDA in 2011. Since then, many other kinds have also been approved for patient use, and Dr. Lee expects even more to come in the future.
Access the Latest Treatments at RCCA
From highly advanced technology to cutting-edge treatments, RCCA remains at the forefront of cancer care innovation. Contact our team of top doctors located throughout New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut today to learn more.