Categories: Oncology

Immunotherapy for Cancer Treatment

IMMUNOTHERAPY is a revolutionary cancer treatment with profound potential for the treatment of cancer. The cancer cells thrive in our bodies because they are able to hide from our immune system. Certain drugs such as immunotherapies can either mark cancer cells so that it is easier for the immune system to find and destroy them or boost our immune system to work better against cancer. Various types of immunotherapeutic options available are:

(a) Immune checkpoint inhibitors: These drugs basically take the ‘brakes’ off the immune system, thus making our immune cells capable enough to recognize and attack cancer cells. Ex. Nivolumumab, Pembrolizumab, Atezolizumab. They have been recently launched in India and are approved to be used for lung cancer, Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer, head neck cancer, malignant melanoma (a type of skin cancer), liver cancer and urinary bladder cancers.

(b) Cancer vaccines: A vaccine exposes the immune system to an antigen. This triggers the immune system to recognize and destroy that antigen or related materials thus helping us to prevent or treat cancer. Ex. HPV vaccine can be used to prevent cervical, vaginal, vulvar or anal cancer in males and females.

(c) CAR T Cell Therapy: This therapy removes some of a person’s T cells (a type of immune cells) and alters them to make them better able to fight cancer. The altered T cells are then returned to the patient’s body to go to work. Some researchers have called these re-engineered cells “a living drug. CAR T cell therapy is yet unavailable in India.  The class of drugs belonging to CAR T cell got approval by USFDA for children and young adults with leukemia and high-grade lymphomas.

(d) Non-specific immunotherapies: These treatments boost the immune system in a general way, and help the immune system to attack cancer cells. Ex. Interleukins and Interferon’s to be used for kidney cancer or chronic myeloid leukemia.

Immunotherapy side effects can be different than those seen with chemotherapy or radiation. They are usually related to stimulation of the immune system and can range from minor “flu-like” symptoms like rash, itching, and fever, to major illnesses such as severe diarrhea, thyroid dysfunction, liver dysfunction, and breathing difficulty. immunotherapy can “train” the immune system to remember cancer cells and this  “immune-memory” may result in long-lasting disease remissions that are maintained even after treatment is completed.

IMMUNOTHERAPY with and without chemotherapy in the coming years will be the backbone of treatment in various types of cancers.

At Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram we provide the most advanced medical expertise in an environment that focuses on strong ethics, compassion and concern for each and every individual patient. The center is known for its large team of experts of national repute from various specialties such as medical, radiation, surgical oncology, nuclear medicine, onco-pathology, and onco-radiology. The oncology team with the help of a comprehensive tumour board has the capability to integrate leading-edge research into a treatment plan tailored or personalized for an individual. The medical oncology team has vast experience in administering targeted therapy, immunotherapy, personalized cancer treatment, molecular oncology based protocols.

The writer, Dr. Randeep Singh, is a Director & Senior Consultant – Medical and Hemato Oncology at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital in Gurugram

Narayana Health

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