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Immunotherapy; Everything you need to know about this new method of cancer treatment

Study guide




Immunotherapy or immunotherapy is a new and advanced treatment for cancer that works by stimulating the immune system. In this method, immunosuppressive drugs (CAR T-cell) are used. This treatment can produce cells that fight cancer and help healthy cells identify and kill cancer cells. Join us to learn more about this promising way to fight cancer.

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a treatment for cancer that involves your immune system fighting disease. This treatment is sometimes called biotherapy and can:

  • Teach the immune system to identify and attack specific cancer cells;
  • Strengthen immune cells to kill cancer;
  • Provide extra elements for the body that help strengthen the immune system.

There are several types of cancer treatment, including:

  • Targeted antibodies;
  • Cancer vaccines;
  • Adaptive cell transfer;
  • Tumor-infecting viruses;
  • Safety check inhibitors.

Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy because it uses living organisms to fight disease.

What cancers is used for immunotherapy?

Immunology is used to treat a variety of cancers:

  • Bladder Cancer;
  • brain cancer;
  • Breast Cancer;
  • Ovarian or uterine cancer;
  • Colon Cancer;
  • Head and neck cancer;
  • Kidney, liver and lung cancer;
  • Leukemia;
  • Prostate Cancer;
  • Skin Cancer;
  • Lymph node cancer.

The main methods of cancer treatment with immunotherapy:

  • Adaptive cell therapy: In this procedure, the doctor removes the person’s immune cells and, after changing and strengthening them, returns them to the body. Modified cells look for cancer cells and kill them. In the CAR T-cell method, immune T cells combine with chimeric antigen receptors to fight cancer cells.
  • Cancer vaccines: Vaccines trigger an immune response that can protect the body against certain diseases. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against an infection that can cause cancers of the uterus, anus, throat and penis. There is also a hepatitis B vaccine. Hepatitis B causes liver cancer.
  • Immunomodulators: These substances alter the body’s biological response. These modulators enhance the immune system’s ability to detect and kill cancer cells. This type of treatment includes check inhibitors, cytokines, interferon, and interleukins.
  • Monoclonal antibodies: These proteins, made in the laboratory, attack specific parts of cancer cells. These antibodies can deliver drugs, toxins or radioactive substances directly to the tumor.
  • Oncolytic viruses: Specialists modify these viruses in the laboratory to infect and kill cancer cells.

Benefits of Immunotherapy

There are many reasons to choose immunotherapy:

  • If other treatments are ineffective, immunotherapy can be effective. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are not as effective in treating some cancers as skin cancer, but immunotherapy kills these cancer cells.
  • This method can help with other methods of cancer treatment. Other methods, such as chemotherapy, may work better with immunotherapy.
  • It has fewer side effects than other treatments. This is because it only targets your immune system, not all the cells in the body.
  • Reduces the risk of cancer recurrence. Immunotherapy teaches your immune system to kill cancer cells if they return. This feature is called immunomorphology or immune memory, which protects you against cancer for a longer period of time.

Risks of immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is very promising for the treatment of cancer. However, it can also have problems:

  • You may have a poor immune response to immunotherapy. The drug enters your body and may cause pain, itching, swelling, and redness.
  • This treatment has side effects. Some types of immunotherapy can stimulate your immune system and make you feel like you have the flu, which is accompanied by fever, chills and fatigue. Some people also experience complications such as swelling, weight gain due to excess fluid accumulation, palpitations, headaches and diarrhea. Most of the time, these side effects go away after the first time.
  • It can damage your devices and internal organs. Some of these drugs cause your immune system to attack different parts of the body, such as the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, or intestines.
  • Treatment is not quick. In some cases, immunotherapy takes longer than other treatments, and more cancer may remain in the body.
  • It does not work for everyone. Currently, immunotherapy is effective for less than half of those treated and has little effect on most people. That is, it may inhibit the growth of the tumor or make it smaller, but it does not kill it. Doctors are still unsure why this treatment only works for some people.
  • Your body may get used to it. Over time, immunotherapy may no longer work for cancer cells. This means that even if it is effective at first, your tumor can grow back.

What is Allergy Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy with allergy vaccines can help your body not react to allergens. You can get the allergy vaccine if you have allergy symptoms for more than 3 months of the year and the medicine does not have much effect on you.

This method does not cure allergies and can only reduce the symptoms.

In this method, you should see a doctor every week for several months. The allergy vaccine is injected into your arm and contains a small amount of allergen, for example:

  • pollen;
  • Pet dandruff;
  • Mushrooms;
  • dust;
  • Bee venom.

Over time, the dose of this substance increases to a certain amount and the interval between injections increases. After a few months, you should only get this vaccine once a month for 3 to 5 years. During this time, your allergy symptoms will diminish or even disappear.

How long does it take to treat cancer with immunotherapy?

Lung cancer immunotherapy

Immunotherapy may need to be repeated at daily, weekly, or monthly intervals. In periodic immunotherapy, the person takes a break after each course of treatment. During this rest, the body has the opportunity to build healthy cells. The length of treatment depends on:

  • Type and stage of cancer;
  • Type of immunotherapy drug;
  • The body responds to treatment.

What happens after immunotherapy?

Unlike chemotherapy, immunotherapy does not always shrink the tumor. In some cases, the tumor may become temporarily swollen or larger due to an attack by immune cells, but the patient may feel better. In this case, the tumor may look worse, but the patient is recovering.

In this treatment, the patient needs to see a doctor frequently to monitor the healing process. Physical examinations, blood tests, and follow-up imaging may also be needed.

Why is this treatment recommended for cancer patients?

Immunotherapy is approved worldwide and can treat a variety of cancers. Confirmation of this treatment is due to years of research and testing that has shown its positive effect on patients. Immunotherapy is not always effective for all patients, and some types can have severe but controllable side effects. Scientists are looking for ways to figure out which treatment works for which patients.

Not all of the immune system’s ability to fight cancer has been discovered yet, but immunotherapy has been able to save or prolong the lives of thousands of cancer patients. This treatment could be more accurate, personal, and effective than any current cancer treatment in the future, and it would have fewer side effects.

Immunotherapy in Iran

Immunotherapy is the future of cancer treatment, but it is not yet common in Iran. This treatment, despite its effectiveness, is expensive and not covered by insurance. According to Mehr News Agency, the scientific secretary of the National Congress of the Iranian Association of Medical Oncology and Hematology, Nematullah Rostami, believes that people should not be deprived of the right to receive medicine, but immunotherapy drugs are very expensive and smuggled to the people.

Due to the unofficial introduction of drugs, their health cannot be guaranteed. These drugs are proteinaceous and do not cause any side effects to the patient if they fail, but they lose their effectiveness when exposed to a temperature of 24 degrees. Widespread use of immunotherapy drugs requires more attention to health and insurance support.

Concluding remarks

Immunotherapy holds great promise for the treatment of cancer patients. This method can be effective in treating various cancers, and with new research, new information about the immune system’s fight against cancer is constantly being published. Immunotherapy can be offered to patients alone or in combination with other treatments for cancer.

By raising awareness about this type of treatment, we can hope that one day it will become a treatment option throughout Iran and reduce the death rate of this horrible disease.

Other sources:webmd

Warning! This article is for educational purposes only and you should consult your doctor or specialist to use it. more information

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Immunotherapy; Everything you need to know about this new method of cancer treatment

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