Cancer Immunotherapy

Also known as: biologic therapy, biotherapy.

What is cancer immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a different modality of cancer treatment that utilizes the body’s immune system to fight cancerous cells. It can utilize natural factors made by the body or synthetic factors made in the laboratory to help harness and recalibrate the immune system to target the cancer cells and destroy them. There are many types of immunotherapies such as monoclonal antibodies, T-cell therapy, vaccine therapies, non-specific immunotherapies and oncolytic virus therapy.


Is any special preparation needed?

Certain forms of immunotherapies may require a surgical procedure to collect a fresh sample to make the vaccine tailored specifically for the patient’s tumor. Once the vaccine is created then the patient will return in an ambulatory setting for intradermal or subcutaneous injections. Other forms of therapy may require immune cells to be collected from the blood. Those cells are then engineered and re-educated to attack the tumor. The new cells are then given back to the patient through an intravenous line. For monoclonal antibodies or non-specific forms of immunotherapy the agent is ordered through a pharmacy and is administered intravenously.


What are the side effect?

The side effects depends on the modality of immunotherapy that is utilized. The side effects also can range from mild, moderate to life threatening. Most of the side effects mimic an immune response. Some of the side effects include fever, fatigue, rash, dizziness, anaphylaxis (severe allergy), cytokine release syndrome, weight gain, respiratory distress and flu-like symptoms.


Reviewed by: Guillermo R De Angulo, MD

This page was last updated on: 10/1/2018 3:37:48 PM

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