Immunotherapy: Strengthening the immune system to fight cancer

Immunotherapy: Strengthening the immune system to fight cancer

In recent decades, a new and exciting treatment for many different kinds of cancer has changed the way we think about and treat cancer.

Immunotherapy, also known as biologic therapy or biotherapy, is a treatment that uses a person’s own immunity to fight diseases such as cancer. Immunotherapy is used to improve, target or restore immune system function. In some cases, it is the only form of treatment used, while in other cases, immunotherapy is combined with other types of treatment.

The immunotherapy process can work in a few different ways. It can be used to stimulate a person’s own immune system to attack cancer cells, or by giving patient man-made immune system components. Immunotherapy either boosts the body’s overall own immune system or trains the body to attack the disease.

The treatment can be effective in stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of the body and helping the immune system better destroy cancer cells.

There are different types of immunotherapy, including:

  • Monoclonal antibodies: Man-made versions of immune system proteins designed to attack a specific part of a cancer cell.
  • Non-specific immunotherapies: Treatments which boost the immune system in a more general way, but can still help the immune system attack cancer cells.
  • Cancer vaccines: Substances put into the body to stimulate an immune response against certain diseases. Though they’re thought of as being given to healthy people, cancer vaccines may also be used to treat cancer.
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors: Drugs that stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.

Is immunotherapy right for you?

To determine if immunotherapy should be part of your treatment plan, talk to your doctor. Here are some important questions to ask your healthcare provider about immunotherapy:

  • Is immunotherapy recommended for me? If so, what kind?
  • Will immunotherapy be my only treatment? If not, what other types of treatment are recommended?
  • How often will I receive immunotherapy?
  • What are the possible side effects of immunotherapy?
  • How will this treatment affect my daily life?
  • Are there any immunotherapy clinical trials open to me?

If you have cancer, ask your doctor about immunotherapy. Every patient’s case is unique, and only your oncologist can tell you if immunotherapy might be a treatment option for you.

At Goshen Health Center for Cancer Care, we've pioneered ways to use immunotherapy to help the body recognize cancer cells as foreign substances and defend itself, the same way it does with a cold or flu virus. We are one of only a few renowned cancer centers in the country to offer treatment with the biologic therapy called Interleukin-2 (IL-2). We use the therapy primarily to treat metastatic melanoma and kidney cancer.

Find out more about how we treat cancer by calling 888.492.HOPE (4673) to talk with our oncology information specialists.

Posted: 2/08/2016 by Goshen Health
Filed under: Cancer Care, cancer treatment, Goshen Center for Cancer Care, immunotherapy

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