What is immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy treatment uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells, usually by activating a person’s immune system. There are a number of types of immunotherapy treatments currently available. These include monoclonal antibodies, which are proteins designed to attack a specific part of the cancerous cell; immune checkpoint inhibitors, which help the immune system to recognise and fight cancer cells; cancer vaccines, which trigger an immune response against the disease; and non-specific immunotherapy, which works by generally boosting the immune system.
Why is it used?
Immunotherapy may be recommended for the treatment of a number of cancer types, including bladder cancer; brain cancer; breast cancer; cervical cancer; colorectal cancer; oesophageal cancer; head and neck cancer; kidney cancer; leukaemia; and lymphoma.
The treatment may be recommended in cases where other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, have proven to be unsuccessful. The results of the treatment are long-lasting and can often be maintained after the treatment is complete.
Are there any side effects?
The most common side effects of immunotherapy are skin reactions, such as swelling, tenderness, and itchiness at the site at which the needle is inserted. It is also possible to experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headaches, muscle pain and weakness following treatment.
What does the treatment involve?
Different forms of immunotherapies are administered in different ways. The treatment may be administered intravenously; orally (in the form of a pill); topically (as a cream); or intravesically directly into the bladder.
Treatment may be recommended on a daily, weekly, or monthly cycle, depending on the case. Generally, a session of treatment is followed by a period of rest so that your body can rest and respond to the therapy.