Immunotherapy is one of the most exciting developments in cancer treatment in years, and what’s more it is available to patients at River’s Hospital.
Immunotherapy is not currently as widely used as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. However, immunotherapies have been approved to treat people with a number of types of cancer.
Because of the immune system's unique properties, these therapies may hold greater potential than current cancer treatments to offer longer-term protection against the disease, fewer side effects and benefit more patients with more cancer types.
What is immunotherapy?
A normal healthy immune system protects us from many diseases including cancer.
New immunotherapy medicines help your immune system fight cancer by stimulating certain immune system cells like T-lymphocytes to identify aberrant or faulty cells and destroy them as they transform into tumours. Other immunotherapies boost your immune system to work better against cancer.
What happens during treatment?
Immunotherapy is an outpatient treatment that may be given in a variety of different ways including Intravenous (IV), where the immunotherapy goes directly into a vein.
How often and how long you receive immunotherapy depends on many factors including:
- The type of cancer you have
- How advanced it is
- The type of immunotherapy you have
- How your body reacts to treatment
You may have treatment every two to three weeks. Some immunotherapies are given in cycles, where you have a period of treatment followed by a period of rest which gives your body a chance to recover, respond to the immunotherapy and build new healthy cells.
For example, one cycle may be four doses every three weeks; others are every two to three weeks for as long as there is benefit and no toxicity.
Can I have immunotherapy?
Immunotherapies have been approved to treat people with a number of tumours with further developments expected in the near future.
If you are interested in immunotherapy, it is best to talk to your own cancer specialist about whether or not it is suitable for you.