In the past years, researchers within the cancer field have made great progress in what treatments known as immunotherapy are concerned. In fact, there are numerous big companies paying large sums of money for clinical studies to be carried out.
What is this immunotherapy all about?
Immunotherapy includes any treatment which is developed to stimulate the immune system to fight against diseases, including cancer. In comparison with chemotherapy, which functions by destroying cancerous cells, immunotherapy works on the immune system’s cells to support them attack the cancerous ones.
How many types of immunotherapy treatments exist?
There is a particular medication called inhibitors which are most frequently used in immunotherapeutic treatments for cancer. These meds are blocking a specific mechanism which the cancerous cells use to destroy the immune system. This blockage encourages the release of T cells, which are an essential part of the immune system. The body uses these cells, hence the immune system, in attacking the cancerous cells. Nowadays, there are four such inhibitors which have also been approved by FDA and are available on the market as an intravenous treatment.
Cellular therapy, another such treatment within the immunotherapy field, refers to collecting cells from the patient’s immune system and genetically modifying them to work against cancer appropriately. The process implies multiplying them in a lab so that these can be administered through a transfusion to the patient. This type of treatment is made especially for each person dealing with cancer, and in the present, it is still being tested.
Blincyto treatment was recently approved for treating a particularly rare type of leukemia. It has to do with administering some antibodies, as in artificial proteins, which are known to have the capacity of attaching themselves on the cancerous cells and also on the T cells to attack the cancer disease.
Vaccines, another immunotherapy type of treatment, have registered a lower success rate in comparison with other types of such therapies. Making a difference between the vaccines which we take in the first years of life to prevent diseases such as rubeola, the anti-cancer vaccines are only administered once the disease has reached within the human body’s system. Their purpose is to support the body’s immune system to attack cancer.
What types of cancer can immunotherapy treat?
Up until this moment, all treatments functioning as inhibitors of cancerous cells have proven to be quite successful. This means that several patients dealing with advanced melanoma, lymphoma, and lung, kidney, and bladder cancer have found great allies in these therapies, regarding supporting the body’s immune system to work on those “bad” cells.
However, such medication is still being also tested for other cancer types, but the good news is that for the earlier mentioned cancer types these inhibiting therapies are approved, and patients can use them without worrying at all.
How effective is this immunotherapy?
Up until this moment, immunotherapy has had remarkable results, and scientists have many times stated that this type of treatment is somehow a revolutionary health recovery method which every cancer patient deserves to know about. However, this is not available, as there are several cases with cancer patients who did not respond as expected to immunotherapy.
Statistics show that between 20% and 40% of all cases, patients conditions are improved through the usage of these inhibitors, but the highest success rate was registered in the melanoma cases. Some patients who were dealing with an advanced diseases stage have had remissions which lasted for many years in a row. In some cases, however, combining two different inhibitors was that one thing to increase the treatment’s effectiveness, but for individual patients, such procedures did not bring any results, only temporarily.
Are there any side effects of immunotherapy?
Several studies have revealed that immunotherapy does indeed bring along some side effects and it all depends, of course, on each body. Therefore, some cases were registered with autoimmune diseases, caused inflammations and respiratory disturbances.
Also, some patients experienced muscle and bone pains, along with other complications, such as arthritis. Different situations have revealed how the immune system had a quite interesting reaction, to being so stimulated, regarding attacking vital glands, such as the thyroid or pituitary one. These reactions are quite dangerous, but they can be adequately managed by administering steroid medication.
Cellular therapy can also bring along severe side effects and sometimes these can even become lethal if the immune system is over stimulated. In most cases, such adverse reactions can be controlled, but patients will have to be observed in the intensive care unit.
Summing it all up
We all know how frustrating and outrageous these severe cancerous diseases are, either if we dealt with them or our loved ones. Unfortunately, cancer is such a common disease nowadays that it is our responsibility towards our bodies to learn as much as we can about all there is to be done to fight against it.
Immunotherapy has several times been hugely successful for many patients going through such horrific health conditions, and that is why it should become a priority for people to read and learn more about this subject. However, like any other treatment, it is advisable to bear in mind that this recovery method may not work for everybody. In other words, acknowledge the positive effects that this treatment may bring along, but also do not get too delusional because you might get surprised.