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What Is Cancer Immunotherapy and Types, Side Effects

Immunotherapy and Side Effects

Immunotherapy and Side Effects

Immunotherapy is one of the most exciting areas of new discoveries and treatments for many different kinds of cancer. Understanding how the immune system works is opening the doors to developing new treatments that are changing the way we think about and treat cancer.

Immunotherapy and Side Effects
Immunotherapy and Side Effects

Most people receiving immunotherapy are treated in specialized cancer centers and many of them are enrolled in clinical trials. This may change as more trials are completed and more drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat different kinds of cancer.

What Is Cancer Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is treatment that uses certain parts of a person’s immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. This can be done in a couple of ways:

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

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

What the immune system does

Your immune system is a collection of organs, special cells, and substances that help protect you from infections and some other diseases. Immune cells and the substances they make travel through your body to protect it from germs that cause infections. They also help protect you from cancer in some ways.

The immune system keeps track of all of the substances normally found in the body. Any new substance that the immune system doesn’t recognize raises an alarm, causing the immune system to attack it. For example, germs contain substances such as certain proteins that are not normally found in the human body. The immune system sees these as “foreign” and attacks them. The immune response can destroy anything containing the foreign substance, such as germs or cancer cells.

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. 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.

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

  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?

As each person’s individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his/her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team any and all possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.

Side effects of immunotherapy, which often mimic flu-like symptoms, vary according to the type of therapy given and may include the following:

  1. Fever

  2. Chills

  3. Nausea

  4. Vomiting

  5. Loss of appetite

  6. Fatigue

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