Immunotherapy and cancer patients
Immunotherapy has the potential to change the way all cancer types are treated and cured.
Understanding immunotherapy is easy. Immunotherapy is type of treatment that works with your body”s immune system to fight cancer and kill cancer cells.
The big question is if the body’s immune system can recognise pathogens,mico-organisms and viruses as a threat to body and kills them but why it does not kill cancer cells. Good cells should kill bad cells but this does not happen.
Does that mean cancer cells are protected by own immune system of body? In normal circumstances inflammatory and immune responses can potentially eliminate a tumor—so-called “immune surveillance” but cancer cells develop special mechanism by which they are not recognised by immune system and keep proliferating and growing invading different organs of body.
A new approach has come up to fight cancer called immunotherapy. How does it work? It suppresses the inhibitory signals produced by cancer cells to evade immune system and mark cancer cells so it is easier for immune system to find and destroy them. Activates immune cells so they recognise cancer cells and destroy them.
Should every patient of cancer receive immunotherapy? No. There are only specific indications where immunotherapy works. It does not work for everyone .Best results are for metastatic lung cancer.
Types of Immunotherapy:
1, Dendritic cell therapy
2, CAR-T Cell therapy
3, Antibody type
4, Cell death therapy.
5, Cytokine therapy
6, Combination immunotherapy
7, Research molecules
Who should receive immunotherapy as it does not work for every cancer. There are certain biomarkers, clinical setting and patient profile which are needed and on these parameters patients are selected for treatment.
Does immunotherapy have side effects? Yes, below is the long list of side effects,but they are usually mild and manageable. Immunotherapy related side effects can involve any organ of body but as i already said they are mild. In few patients it can be fatal. One important thing about immunotherapy which we are seeing these days is that, in some patients cancer progresses very fast the term called -Hyper progression. So one has to be cautious and patients have to be selected carefully for immunotherapy..
How to Tell Whether Immunotherapy Is Working? One is clinically when patients general condition is improving like decrease in pain, reduction in size of disease, improvement in general well being
Cancer immunotherapy offers the possibility for long-term control of cancer
Immunotherapy can “train” the immune system to remember cancer cells. This “immunomemory” may result in longer-lasting and potentially permanent protection against cancer recurrence.
Clinical studies on long-term overall survival have shown that the beneficial responses to cancer immunotherapy treatment are durable—that is, they can be maintained even after treatment is completed.
Dr Waseem Abbas
Medical oncologist and Immunotherapy specialist.