What Is Immunotherapy – and Is It Right for You?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, doctors can choose from many treatments to provide the best care possible for each patient’s unique needs. One of these treatments, immunotherapy, can be used in a variety of ways, and ongoing advancements make it an ideal choice for several types of cancer. Learn more about the basics of immunotherapy from Regional Cancer Care Associates, and schedule a consultation today to see if this treatment is appropriate for you.

How Immunotherapy Works

Also known as biologic therapy, immunotherapy refers to medications that enhance the immune system’s natural response to battling cancer cells. Cancer cells disguise themselves from the immune system and prevent it from attacking them, but immunotherapy counteracts this process by helping the immune system better identify and eliminate these cells. This treatment also has been linked to success in preventing the spread of cancer to other areas of the body, as well as slowing or stopping cancer progression.

Immunotherapy Methods

Generally, immunotherapy is accomplished in one of two ways. One technique stimulates the patient’s immune system into more effectively targeting and attacking cancer cells. This type of immunotherapy can involve:

  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors – medications that allow the immune system to operate more efficiently, which improves its ability to detect and destroy cancer cells
  • Cancer vaccines – injections that force the immune system to initiate a response against a patient’s cancer. These vaccines also protect healthy patients from developing cancer cells
  • Non-specific immunotherapies – help enhance the immune system’s overall response to disease

The second method involves laboratory-produced or modified proteins that are injected into the immune system. This triggers a stronger response to cancer cells and trains the immune system to recognize and eliminate these cells. This version of immunotherapy may include:

  • Monoclonal antibodies – laboratory-generated versions of proteins found in the immune system that target specific areas of cancer cells
  • T cell therapy – immune system cells (T cells) that are modified in a laboratory to improve their response to cancer cells
  • Oncolytic virus therapy – an injected virus that infects cancer cells and breaks them down while leaving healthy cells alone

The Future of Immunotherapy

To date, patients with specific types of cancer – including lymphoma, leukemia and prostate, skin, lung and kidney cancers – have responded well to different immunotherapies. There is also great hope that immunotherapy will demonstrate success in ongoing clinical trials in treating even more types of cancer, and that its benefits will extend to more patients over time.

One of the most promising advances in immunotherapy research involves tumor-agnostic treatments, also known as tissue-agnostic therapies. This involves drugs that can treat any type of cancer in any area of the body by targeting the cancer cells and forcing genetic changes. One medication that does this has been successful in targeting metastatic tumors or cancer that surgery cannot treat, generating high hopes in the medical community.

Immunotherapy at RCCA

Our team of experts at Regional Cancer Care Associates administers immunotherapy to patients on a daily basis. Some types are effective on their own, while others are combined with additional forms of treatment for the best possible outcome. As mentioned above, some types of immunotherapy are better suited for specific forms of cancer – something your doctor will help you navigate while planning treatment. For information, contact Regional Cancer Care Associates to schedule an appointment at your nearest location.