In recent years, medical advancements for the treatment of cancer have made rapid strides. Cancer research has received more focus and funding to grow by leaps and bounds. Along with understanding the disease better, several novel treatments have come to the forefront.
Cancer immunotherapy is one of the breakthrough treatments for the disease. Immunotherapy is a type of biological or targeted therapy that utilizes the natural immune system of the body for killing cancer cells. The other name of this cancer treatment in India is immuno-oncology.
The way of working for cancer immunotherapy
The immune system works to ward off various illnesses and diseases that are caused by internal and external factors. But the immune system fails to detect cancer cells as they don’t have the external markers used by the immune system for identifying hostile bodies. So, cancer cells remain hidden from your immune system. They also signal your immune system to not destroy them even if it identifies them.
This is why immunotherapy is gaining ground as an effective form of cancer treatment. It helps the immune system destroy the cancer cells by identifying them, instead of getting weakened by them.
Types of cancer to receive immunotherapy treatments
Immunotherapy is beneficial in the treatment of several cancer types. The most common cancer variants treated with immunotherapy are lymphoma, neck and head cancers, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, certain skin cancers, and lung cancer.
Though immunotherapy is still not as widely known and used as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy, studies have shown that it has at least twenty percent positive results on cancer patients. Doctors tend to advise immunotherapy when the body does not respond to the first and second line of treatments.
Immunotherapy as a type of cancer treatment in India
Immunotherapy was launched in India a couple of years back, and it is advancing each day. Top healthcare institutes across India have dedicated provisions for immunotherapy for cancer patients. At present, patients have much better access to the type of cancer treatment that their medical needs demand than what the situation was a few years back.
Also, immunotherapy is generally used on third and fourth-stage patients. Every patient does not qualify to meet the requirements of immunotherapy treatment because it tends to vary with different cancer types and clinical conditions.
Different types of immunotherapy treatments
It is difficult to have clear categorization for various types of immunotherapies. This is because of overlap and the usage of combination therapies for cancer treatment.
As such, the most common types of immunotherapy treatments are:
Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic antibodies that are made in laboratories. Generally, the immune system produces these antibodies as a threat response. These antibodies target the elements of threat and eliminate them from the body. This is exactly how monoclonal antibodies work.
The monoclonal antibodies help your immune system to find out the cancer cells through interference with the protein component of these cells. This way, the immune cells can easily detect them. Also, it helps in weakening the cancer cells so that the immune system can destroy them.
Cytokines are a type of protein that helps the body in destroying dangerous or abnormal cells. It includes proteins like interferon and interleukin.
The proteins interfere with the growth and division processes of the cancer cells. This makes the cancer cells easily visible and boosts the growth and functions of the killer T-cells.
The inhibitors tend to cancel out the impact of proteins that the cancer cell produces that prevents the immune system from destroying them. It lets the immune system spot them and destroys them easily.
As such, checkpoints are the proteins found on the surface of the T-cells that turn on under threat and turn off as needed. It helps in activating and deactivating the killer functions of the T-cells.
The cancer cells switch off all the checkpoints on the T-cells so that these aren’t attacked and the checkpoint inhibitors can turn them on once again.
Though it sounds impossible, there is such a thing called a cancer vaccine. It is a kind of immunotherapy. Now, cancer vaccines are made to recognize particular protein markers on the cancer cells.
These vaccines then try to stop further spread of the abnormal cells, remove all abnormal growths that cannot be addressed with other forms of treatments, and stop any re-growth of the cancer cells.
Immunotherapy has already made rapid strides in the field of cancer treatments, and it will keep getting more and more advanced with each passing year. We are getting closer to finding an effective cure for this dreaded disease. So, talk to your doctor about immunotherapy, and know all the facts in detail beforehand.