Immunotherapy is a
type of cancer treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to control the spread and growth of cancerous
cells. This can be done in two
ways. First, a patient’s own immune system may
be boosted and second, synthetic immune system equivalents may be introduced. That is, through medication and other forms of medical
treatment, man-made versions of the immune system are used as a substitute for an immune system that is not
strong enough to fight off cancer.
first case, immunotherapy is able to help a patient’s immune system work harder in order to adequately respond
to present cancer. In the second, synthetic immune
system proteins are introduced in order to reproduce the function of your body’s native immune
Preparation for Immunotherapy: Before you
begin any medical treatment, you must first consent to receive it. This process begins with a conversation between you and your
doctor. Your doctor will tell you about the
different forms of immunotherapy available to you that are relevant to the kind of cancer you are being treated
for. There are many different immunotherapeutic
drugs and each one is a little different. The ones
that your doctor may recommend will vary depending upon the type of cancer being treated, your current health
condition, and your history of cancer treatment.
The process of determining which immunotherapy drug is right for you may take some time.
Procedure: Though the procedure of each immunotherapeutic drug may vary,
any drug given intravenously (through a vein) will be administered by a health care professional at a hospital,
clinic, or treatment center. All IV drugs require
careful preparation and administration, so this is something that only health care professionals who are
experienced in administering cancer treatments should do; you will never give yourself a dose of any IV
also be monitored throughout the time you receive an immunotherapeutic treatment. This is to determine how well the medication is working and
how you are responding to the treatment. Each
treatment session may last around 30 minutes, though this time can vary depending on how frequently the dose is
being given and how well it is working. How
frequently you will receive a treatment will also vary; your doctor may set up a schedule with a definite end in
sight, or begin the treatment cycle again.
Types of Immunotherapy: There is more
than one kind of immunotherapy used in cancer treatments today. Active immunotherapy uses medication to stimulate a person’s
own immune system in order to promote natural defense against cancer. A passive immunotherapy treatment uses medication that mimics
the activity of a person’s immune system; this is helpful in cases where a person’s immune system is not strong
enough to begin defending against cancer on its own.
receive immunotherapy treatment for cancer, you will most likely receive treatments with monoclonal antibodies;
this the most common form of current immunotherapy. Monoclonal antibodies are made in a laboratory and then
introduced to your body through the regular cancer treatments you receive. As the antibodies enter your body, they begin seeking out the
cancer cells they have been programmed to look for.
receive treatment with a drug that contains conjugated monoclonal antibodies, those antibodies will deliver a
toxin, drug, or radioactive agent to the cancer cells that the antibody has been programmed to seek
out. The antibody will then deliver that toxin or
drug to the cancer cell, thus destroying it. The
careful construction of all monoclonal antibodies make it so healthy cells won’t be affected. For this reason, immunotherapy has some similarities to
targeted therapy cancer treatments.
The recovery time required will vary.
Each drug will have different effects and, depending on how long your course of treatment lasts, it may take some
time for you to fully recover.
Side Effects: All forms of immunotherapy carry some risk. Depending on which form of immunotherapy you receive, the
side effects you experience may be more or less severe. Some common side effects include nausea, vomiting, and
fever. Talk to your doctor about your