What is immunotherapy?

A medical procedure known as immunotherapy uses the body's natural defence mechanisms to treat, manage, or prevent disease. It entails using medications, biological agents, or other agents that either boost or suppress the immune system to treat diseases like allergies, autoimmune conditions, cancer, and infections. Immunotherapy aims to minimise harm to healthy tissues while assisting the immune system in identifying and attacking particular targets, such as cancer cells. Cancer therapies like chemotherapy and radiation can be combined with this therapy. Immunotherapy is a fast-developing discipline that has the potential to improve the way that many diseases are treated significantly.

What is immunotherapy made of?

Various chemicals can be used depending on the condition being treated and the type of immunotherapy employed. Several examples of immunotherapy include:

  • Adoptive cell transfer
    Immune cells, including T cells, are taken from a patient's blood and genetically altered or engineered to target particular antigens before being put back into the patient's body to fight cancer cells
  • Cancer vaccines
    By giving the immune system cancer-specific antigens to recognise and destroy abnormal cells, these vaccinations can encourage the immune system to do so.
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors
    These medications obstruct immune system checkpoints that shield cancer cells from attack. The immune system can recognise and combat cancer cells more successfully by inhibiting these checkpoints.
  • Immune system modulators
    Depending on the disease being treated, these medications can either activate or suppress the immune system. For instance, medications that boost immune function can treat specific infections, whereas medications that reduce immunological function can be used to treat autoimmune diseases.
  • Monoclonal antibodies
    are modified immune system proteins created in a laboratory that can recognise specific antigens (foreign substances) on the surface of cancerous cells, virus-infected cells, or other cells that the immune system needs to destroy.

How do you administer immunotherapy?

Here are a few typical methods for administering immunotherapy:

  • Intravenous (IV) infusion
    Many immunotherapy medications are administered using an IV infusion, which entails slowly injecting the chemical into a vein over time.
  • Oral medication
    Some immunotherapy medications are consumed orally in pill or liquid form.
  • Subcutaneous injection
    Some immunotherapy medications can be administered subcutaneously, inserting a tiny needle beneath the skin to provide the medicament.
  • Topical application
    Immunotherapy medications occasionally come in cream or gel form, which can be applied topically to the skin.

What is the outcome of immunotherapy?

The results of immunotherapy can vary based on the illness being treated, the immunotherapy modality employed, and the treatment response of each patient. Immunotherapy has the potential to cure some patients completely, but in other circumstances, it can just halt the course of the disease or enhance the patient's quality of life. For instance, immunotherapy has demonstrated encouraging outcomes in treating various cancers, including lung and bladder cancer. Immunotherapy has had notable and long-lasting effects in some individuals with advanced cancer who have not responded to previous therapies.



Are there side effects of immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy does occasionally have side effects. Immunotherapy has the potential to boost or suppress the immune system, which can have a variety of adverse effects that can range from moderate to severe. Immunotherapy may cause a variety of common side effects, such as:

  • Changes in blood pressure or heart rate
  • Diarrhoea or other gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Skin rashes or itching
  • Swelling or fluid retention

How often do I need immunotherapy?

While specific immunotherapies can be administered as a single therapy, others may need to be administered over the course of several weeks, months, or even years.


At what stage of cancer is immunotherapy needed?

Immunotherapy can sometimes be used as a first-line treatment; other times, it comes after other treatments have failed.

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