Chemotherapy has been around for many decades so more patients are familiar with this than immunotherapy. Although experts have been studying cancer immunotherapy since 1981, it is only until recently that the treatment has gained popularity. This breakthrough has earned James Allison and Tasuku Honjo a Nobel Prize in 2018 for their work on cancer immunotherapy.
Unfortunately, chemotherapeutic agents cannot distinguish between healthy cells and cancer cells. This is why patients experience side effects like hair loss, mouth sores, nausea, and gastrointestinal problems when they undergo chemotherapy. For some patients, the side effects are more serious, leading to compromised organ function because the chemotherapeutic drugs also damaged their healthy cells.
Because of these, it’s not surprising that many patients look for an alternative, chemo-free cancer treatment that offers the same medical promise, if not better.
Immunotherapy’s approach is seen as revolutionary and could be better for some types of cancer. This approach is more sustainable and can provide long-term protection against the disease. Studies have shown that the effects of cancer immunotherapy treatment may last long after the completion of the therapy.
The length of treatment varies with each patient and the chosen therapy. But in some cases, immunotherapy may take longer than chemotherapy because doctors need to ascertain that the treatment is mobilizing the immune system to fight the tumors. However, there are some types of chemotherapy that may actually aid in the immune response. For this reason, doctors recommend combining these two treatments to give patients an even bigger chance of beating cancer.
As with many treatments, there may be some side effects. Immunotherapy can cause an overstimulation of the immune response. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, patients may experience flu-like symptoms, muscle aches, fever, chills, dizziness, low blood pressure, rashes, skin dryness, and blistering. This is why at Williams Cancer Institute, we make sure that patients who want to avail of our private pay immunotherapy for cancer are carefully screened and monitored before they undergo treatment.
Why choose immunotherapy as a new alternative cancer treatment to chemotherapy?
Safe and fewer side effects
Several treatments are available for cancer patients, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery. Since some cases demand multiple treatments at multiple times, the chances of side effects are higher when more than one drug is used, such as in combination therapy.
Since immunotherapy, new alternative cancer treatment to chemotherapy, acts as a cancer vaccine, patients can now enjoy a safer, more efficient cancer treatment, with less frequent dosing and fewer adverse effects, in the form of immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy utilizes your immune cells to specifically target cancer cells. It is less invasive and has fewer adverse effects compared to conventional cancer treatment. This is achieved by obtaining sample T-cells, which are immune cells that naturally destroy pathogens and cancer cells, hijacking them to specifically target tumor cells that are usually in stealth mode from intrinsic immune cells, and are given back to the patient intravenously.
Normally, T-cells have checkpoints that regulate their activity, turning off their offensive potential upon contact with healthy cells. Cancer cells take advantage of this and turn off the T-cells, so that they bypass the cancer cells. With immunotherapy, the modified immune cells continue to function upon encountering tumor cells, preventing deactivation, and ultimately eliminating the cancer cells.
Can be combined with other treatments
As a progressive pathological process that can be diagnosed in its more advanced stages, cancer may call for multiple forms of treatment to sufficiently deal with the problem, such as combined chemoradiotherapy, or adjuvant chemotherapy after the resection of a tumor. Immunotherapy can also be combined with other cancer treatments to improve prognosis, offering versatility, efficiency, and better outcomes.
Types of immunotherapy
There are many types of immunotherapy, but some of the most adopted treatments are:
T-cell transfer therapy. This type aids the T-cells, the body’s natural attackers, to fight cancer. Immune cells taken from the tumor are sent to the lab to use as T-cell boosters.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors. This makes use of drugs that block the immune checkpoints to allow the immune cells to beat the tumor.
Monoclonal antibodies. This uses immune system proteins, created in the laboratory, to bind to the targeted cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies may also tag cancer cells so the immune system can easily destroy them.
Immune system modulators. This makes use of immune-modulating agents like cytokines or BCG to boost the immune system.
Advantages of immunotherapy
The following are the advantages of immunotherapy, giving it an edge among other cancer treatments.
- Effective on a wide range of cancer sites. Immunotherapy is known to deal with a wide range of cancers such as lung, kidney, and skin. Compared to other treatments that directly target the tumor cells, immunotherapy harnesses the immune cells and therefore can deal with a wider range of cancer types.
- Deals with both early stages and late stages of cancer. T-cells have a natural affinity to budding cancer cells and eliminate them at the earliest possible time. Besides this, adoptive cell transfer immunotherapy, a variant of immunotherapy, has been found to be effective against late stages of cancer that are otherwise unmanageable by other means such as surgery.
- Prevent recurrence. Because they program immune cells to deal with a certain cancer type, the T-cells remember the cancer cells they have an affinity to and can reactivate once there is recurrent growth of these tumor cells, most particularly in cancer vaccine-mediated treatment. They are also found effective against cancer types that are refractory after the patient is given standard cancer treatment.
- More extensive combinations of immunotherapy can be utilized than in standard intravenous immunotherapy. Combination is the key to success in immunotherapy.
- It can increase immune cell infiltration into the tumors helping overcome a significant inhibitor to standard immunotherapy.
- You don’t have to choose; intratumoral immunotherapy can be combined with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation, ablation, targeted drugs, and systemic immunotherapy, such as Opdivo and Keytruda. Intratumoral immunotherapy can enhance the results of other standard therapies.
- The treatment is systemic, potentially targeting all cancer, not only the tumor injected.
- Intratumoral immunotherapy can help expand treatment options in cancers ordinarily resistant to traditional immunotherapy.
Having a remarkable mechanism of action, cancer researchers have found a way to utilize one’s own immune cell without incorporating severely damaging substances and turn the natural protective activity of immune cells into a great advantage against cancer. With all of these advantages, immunotherapy continues to bear great promise.
Patient survival rate
A study cites that immunotherapy significantly increases a lung cancer patient’s survival rate by more than five years. With chemotherapy alone, that survival rate has been pegged to about a year only.
For some lung cancer patients, immunotherapy might actually cure cancer completely. Immunotherapy may also deliver results that late-stage cancers won’t get from chemotherapy or other treatments.
Experts say that immunotherapy may reduce the chances of cancer coming back. This is called “immunomemory” whereby the immune system learns to attack the cancer cells if they do recur. With this capability, this therapy can significantly help patients to remain cancer-free.
How is immunotherapy administered?
Immunotherapy may be given intravenously (IV), orally, topically, or through intravesical means via the bladder. Treatment may be done daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on the cancer stage and the body’s reaction. It can be done at Williams Cancer Institute, private pay cancer treatment center as an outpatient procedure. The treatment may also be given in cycles to give the body a chance to rest, recharge, and build healthier cells until the next session.
At Williams Cancer Institute private pay cancer treatment, we offer intratumoral immunotherapy for our cancer patients. This is done by injecting sophisticated anti-cancer immuno-antibodies into tumor deposits that have just been ablated by freezing or heating.
We will usually monitor the patient’s progress through physical exams, laboratory tests, and other forms of assessments. We also monitor the size of the tumor and the body’s response to treatment.
With all of these in mind, cancer researchers have been striving to find better ways of fighting cancer with the primary objectives of discovering more effective treatments of cancer, developing more cost-efficient treatment that is available and accessible, and providing better outcomes for the patients.
Immunotherapy, as a new experimental cancer treatment, checks most of the boxes needed for safe and better treatment outcomes for the patients and is continuously being improved through clinical trials. With such an innovative treatment carefully studied and tested, immunotherapy is becoming one of the standard cancer treatments.
New alternative cancer treatment to chemotherapy! Learn more about our private pay immunotherapy.
Dr. Jason Williams’ approach combines interventional radiology expertise with a high level of knowledge about the science of immunology, cancer, and cancer immunotherapy.
If you or a loved one have any more questions or need information about this new cancer treatment, immunotherapy for cancer, OX40 cancer immunotherapy, or cd40 cancer immunotherapy, give us a call at Williams Cancer Institute.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.
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