Immunotherapy is also called Biologic therapy. This therapy uses substances made by the body, i.e. made from living organisms, to improve, target or restore the immune system function. To target tumors by harnessing the immune system and provide active or passive immunity against malignancies is tumor Immunotherapy. Cellular immunotherapy is a successful therapeutic agent to treat cancers, according to recent scientific studies. The studies clearly state that Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps our immune system fight cancer, infections and other diseases. It is made up of white blood cells and organs and tissues of the lymph system.
CANCERS THAT ARE TREATED WITH IMMUNOTHERAPY:
- Bladder Cancer—Patients with early-stage, moderate or fast-growing tumors are given vaccines for treating. It can reduce the chances of bladder cancer from coming back.
- Brain Cancer/ Tumor
- Breast Cancer—Immunotherapy with Chemotherapy is given to treat.
- Cervical Cancer and Ovarian Cancer—Advance cervical cancers are also treated with immunotherapy.
- Colorectal Cancer— advance stages are treated
- Head and Neck Cancer– advance stages are treated
- Kidney, Liver and Lung Cancers—advance stages are also treated with immunotherapy system.
- Leukemia—Immunotherapy is commonly used to treat Leukemia and other blood related diseases and cancers. A stem-cell transplant is also a form of immunotherapy as the donated blood-making cells help the immune system to fight the disease better.
TYPES OF IMMUNOTHERAPY:
A few Immunotherapy strategies have been approved to treat cancers. They are:
- Molecular therapy
- Cellular therapy
- Vaccination therapy.
Apart from these, there are five different classes of Immunotherapies administered on cancer patients. These therapies help the immune system to fight cancer activity in several ways. The five therapies are:
- CELL-BASED IMMUNOTHERAPY: In this therapy, the patients’ immune system is supplemented with immune cells, like bone marrow transplant, and now transplants are also taking place like CART cells.
- IMMUNOMODULATORS: They act directly on immune cells and help in anti-cancer functioning, for example, treating Leukemia and Melanoma.
- VACCINES: To treat bladder cancer and prostate cancer these vaccines help the immune system to fight against any threat.
- ANTIBODY-BASED TARGETED THERAPIES: This helps to target cancer cells directly or the other cells or proteins that help the cancer tumor to live. This is administered for various cancers.
- ONCOLYTIC VIRUSES: It infects the cancer cells that attract the immune system. and bursts them, especially for patients with advanced melanoma.
SIDE EFFECTS OF IMMUNOTHERAPY:
- SKIN REACTIONS: Skin turns red, dryness or blisters are formed, skin can become sensitive to light, and scratching can cause infections.
- FLU LIKE SYMPTOMS: Tiredness, dizziness, vomiting, body pains, high or low blood pressure and fever.
- Muscle pain.
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of legs
- Side effects depend on the location of the cancer, type of treatment and the patient’s general health.
- Sometimes, immunotherapy attack healthy cells.
- Generally, side effects are mild, moderate or even life-threatening.
- Many side effects go away once the treatment ends or last for a long time or may appear months or years later.
- The treating doctor and the health care team can help the patient to manage the side effects.
WORKING OF IMMUNOTHERAPY:
Immunotherapy stimulates the immune system and helps it to find and attack cancer cells.
Sometimes, the components of the immune system are made in the laboratory and administered into the body. They work like our immune system and does the work of finding and attacking the cancer cells.
Immune cells travel through the body and protect the body from the germs that cause infections.
Any new or foreign substance develops in the body, the immune systems attacks it and destroys it, such as germs and cancer cells.
Sometimes, the immune system may not recognize the foreign cells as the cells look like normal cells.
IS IMMUNOTHERAPY PAINFUL?
Today with advanced ways of treatment with cytotoxics, hormonotherapy, targeted therapy and even the latest immune checkpoint inhibitors are not painful.
WAYS IN WHICH IMMUNOTHERAPY IS GIVEN:
Different forms of Immunotherapy can be given in a number of ways. Like:
- INTRAVENOUS(IV)—Immunotherapy is given directly in the vein.
- ORAL—Immunotherapy is given as pills or capsules.
- TOPICAL: Immunotherapy is given in the form of a cream that has to be rubbed on the skin, especially for early skin cancer.
- INTRAVESICAL: Immunotherapy is given directly into the bladder.
WAYS TO IMPROVE THE IMMUNE SYSTEM DURING IMMUNOTHERAPY:
The ways to keep the immune system as strong as possible are:
- SLEEP WELL: Seven hours of sleep won’t strain the system. Sometimes with fever, cold and other infections a patient might find it difficult to sleep well, so go to bed and wake up at the same time. Sleep after eating well. Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet
- EAT WELL: When on immunotherapy eat a variety of healthy foods. Fruits, Vegetables and Proteins. To enhance the immune system and the other systems good diet is necessary. Even if not hungry must eat the required food. Avoid eating that does not boost the immune system.
- EXERCISE: A healthy way to be safe is exercising. Take the advice of the doctor, as at times it is not good to exercise when you are tired, if the red or white blood cell count cell is low.
- STRESS MANAGEMENT: During treatment stress is not good as it can affect the immune system and the digestive system. The best way to manage is eat well, good sleep exercise a little, massage, meditation, reading, listening to music, and often speaking to your doctor.
- DO NOT FALL ILL: If your immune system should keep fighting with cancer cells follow a few tips: wash your hands well before and after eating; the fridge temperature should be set below 40 degrees F; Don not eat raw sprouts; wash vegetables, and fruits well.
AWARENESS OF IMMUNOTHERAPY:
Awareness of immunotherapy in growing of cancer cells and new immunotherapeutic strategies are increasing. It is important that people must understand how immunotherapy works. The awareness of cancer immunotherapy is high but the knowledge levels are limited. Many understand that immunotherapy is safe and tolerable. In spite of the awareness of cancer immunotherapy there is a need to educate more and highlight more on its safety and the long term benefits.