Among the most common diseases in the world, cancer has undoubtedly taken its position among the top 10, however in retrospect this disease in itself was considered incurable because the limited knowledge and resources present in the past. With the passage of time and technological and medicinal advancements, oncologists could understand the nature and extent of this fatal disease, hence they could vehemently study symptoms, the effects and consequently draw conclusion to line up treatments in order to cure this disease.
Various treatment plans have been discovered over the years, There are many types of cancer treatment. The types of treatment that you receive will depend on the type of cancer you have and how advanced it is; Chemotherapy, Hormone Therapy, Immunotherapy to Treat Cancer, Radiation Therapy, Stem Cell Transplant, Targeted Therapy.
What is immunotherapy?
The most recent advancement in the cancer treatment is immunotherapy, Immunotherapy is treatment that uses certain parts of a person’s immune system to fight diseases such as cancer.
How it works
This can be done in a two major of ways:
- Firstly by stimulating, or boosting, the natural defenses of your immune system so it works harder or smarter to find and attack cancer cells.
- Secondly making substances in a lab that are just like immune system components and using them to help restore or improve how your immune system works to find and attack cancer cells
Types of immunotherapy
Types of cancer immunotherapy are various. There are several main types of immunotherapy used to treat cancer, and many are being studied.
- Checkpoint inhibitors: These drugs basically take the ‘brakes’ off the immune system, which helps it recognize and attack cancer cells.
- Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy: Manipulating the idea of cellular memory, this therapy takes some T-cells from a patient’s blood, mixes them with a special virus that makes the T-cells learn how to attach to tumor cells, and then gives the cells back to the patient so they can find, attach to, and kill the cancer.
- Cytokines: This treatment uses cytokines, these small proteins that carry messages between cells, to evoke the immune cells to attack cancer.
Immunomodulators: This group of drugs generally boosts parts of the immune system to treat certain types of cancer.
- Cancer vaccines: Vaccines are substances put into the body to generate an immune response against various diseases. We usually think of them as being given to healthy people to help prevent infections. But some vaccines can help prevent or treat specific types of cancers.
- Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs or MoAbs): These are artificially made versions of immune system proteins. mAbs can be very useful in treating cancer because they can be designed to attack a very specific part of a cancer cell.
- Oncolytic viruses: This treatment make use of viruses that have been altered in a lab to target, infect and kill certain tumor cells.
Benefits of immunotherapy
Cancer immunotherapy has various benefits it can work on many different types of cancer. The list of cancers that are actively treated using immunotherapy is extensive. Immunotherapy has been an effective treatment for patients with certain types of cancer that have shown resistance to chemotherapy and radiation treatment (e.g., melanoma).
Cancer immunotherapy offers the possibility for remission of cancer long-term, Immunotherapy can train the immune system to remember cancer cells. This “immunomemory” may result in longer-lasting remissions.
Cancer immunotherapy may not cause the same side effects as chemotherapy and radiation. Cancer immunotherapy is focused on the immune system and may be more targeted than conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. Side effects vary according to each therapy and how it intermingles with the body. Conventional cancer treatments have a direct effect of a chemical or radiological therapy on cancer and healthy tissues, which may result in common side effects such as hair loss and nausea.
However, considering there are always two sides to every story hence immunotherapy is not entirely a safe medical procedure or treatment, side effects of cancer immunotherapy may vary depending on which type of immunotherapy is used. Potential side effects relate to an overstimulation or misdirection of the immune system and may range from minor symptoms of inflammation (e.g. fever) to major conditions similar to autoimmune disorders, hence still more clinical experiments are being conducted to devise a medical treatment plan for cancer patients that mostly pain-free and effective at the same time.