Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system fight against cancer. The immune system is made up of white blood cells, organs and tissues of the lymph system. Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy that uses substances made from living organisms to treat cancer. Immunotherapy drugs, though not as widely used as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, are used to treat many types of cancer.
What are the types of immunotherapy?
Several types of immunotherapy are used to treat cancer. These include:
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors: Drugs that block immune checkpoints, allowing the immune cells to respond more strongly to cancer
- T-cell transfer therapy: Boosts the natural ability of the body’s T cells to fight cancer by converting the most active cells in the body to better the cancer cells
- Monoclonal antibodies: Proteins created in the lab that are designed to bind to specific targets on cancer cells, so that they will be better seen and destroyed by the immune system
- Treatment vaccines: Works against cancer by boosting the body’s immune system’s response to cancer cells
- Immune system modulators: Enhances the body’s immune response against cancer
What are the side effects of immunotherapy?
- Skin reactions
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle aches
- Shortness of breath (trouble breathing)
- Swelling of legs (edema)
- Sinus congestion
- Weight gain from retaining fluid
- Hormone changes
How is immunotherapy given?
Different forms of immunotherapy may be given in different ways. These include:
- Intravenous (IV)
Intravesical (through the bladder)