What is immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy gives your immune system extra help in the fight against cancer using substances extracted from living organisms.
Your immune system consists of lymph system organs and tissues along with your white blood cells. Part of your immune system’s job is to detect cancer cells using tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes or TILs.
When you have TILs in and around your tumor, it shows your immune system is responding to the malignant cells. Patients whose tumors contain TILs generally do better than patients whose tumors don’t have any TILs in them.
Unfortunately, your immune system isn’t always able to destroy cancer cells because they can defend themselves. Cancer cells might be able to hide from your immune system using genetic camouflage or use proteins to switch immune cells off.
Cancer cells can also affect normal cells near a tumor, interfering with your immune system response. Immunotherapy gives your immune system ways to deal with these issues and defend you more effectively from cancer.
What types of immunotherapy are there?
There are several types of immunotherapy:
Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
These are medications that block your immune checkpoints. These checkpoints normally prevent an overly strong immune response, so by blocking the checkpoints, inhibitors enable your immune cells to mount a fiercer campaign against cancer.
T-cell Transfer Therapy
T-cell transfer therapy is also known as adoptive immunotherapy, immune cell therapy, or adoptive cell therapy. Your provider at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology takes immune cells from your tumor. In the laboratory, they extract the most active anti-cancer cells and might also change them, so they’re more effective.
The lab grows large quantities of these T-cells, and then inject them back into your body at the IV infusion center.
Monoclonal antibodies are proteins created artificially to bind to cancer cells.
Treatment Vaccines and Immune System Modulators
Vaccines and immune system modulators work by enhancing your immune system’s response to cancer cells.
An example of immunotherapy treatment the team uses at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology is PROVENGE® (sipuleucel-T). This treatment uses your immune cells, reprogrammed to fight prostate cancer. PROVENGE could help you live longer with advanced stage, treatment-resistant prostate cancer.
What does immunotherapy involve?
There are several ways you can receive your immunotherapy treatment depending on the type of cancer you have and the therapy you’re getting:
- Intravenous (IV) – the immunotherapy drugs go directly into your vein
- Oral – you swallow pills or capsules containing the immunotherapy medication
- Topical – a cream that you rub into your skin
- Intravesical – the immunotherapy medication goes directly into your bladder
The Hunterdon Hematology Oncology team is at the forefront of this significant treatment option, having participated in clinical trials offering immunotherapy to their patients before most other treatment facilities.
To find out more about cutting-edge cancer treatments and how immunotherapy could help you, call Hunterdon Hematology Oncology today or book an appointment online.