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Understanding Immunotherapy and Cancer Immunotherapy

Understanding Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a broad category of anti-cancer therapies that use the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. These cells are different from normal cells, in that they do not die normally.

Understanding Immunotherapy
Understanding Immunotherapy

What Is Cancer Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is treatment that uses certain parts of a person’s immune system to fight diseases such as cancer.

  • Stimulating your own immune system to work harder or smarter to attack cancer cells

  • Giving you immune system components, such as man-made immune system proteins

Types of cancer immunotherapy

  1. Monoclonal antibodies: These are man-made versions of immune system proteins. Antibodies can be very useful in treating cancer because they can be designed to attack a very specific part of a cancer cell.

  2. Immune checkpoint inhibitors: These drugs basically take the ‘brakes’ off the immune system, which helps it recognize and attack cancer cells.

  3. Cancer vaccines: Vaccines are substances put into the body to start an immune response against certain diseases. We usually think of them as being given to healthy people to help prevent infections. But some vaccines can help prevent or treat cancer.

  4. Other, non-specific immunotherapies: These treatments boost the immune system in a general way, but this can still help the immune system attack cancer cells.

Side Effects of Immunotherapy

Side effects of these drugs can include fatigue, cough, nausea, itching, skin rash, loss of appetite, constipation, joint pain, and diarrhea. Other, more serious side effects occur less often. These drugs work by basically removing the brakes on the body’s immune system. Sometimes the immune system starts attacking other parts of the body, which can cause serious or even life-threatening problems in the lungs, intestines, liver, hormone-making glands, kidneys, or other organs.

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