With the cases of cancer rising, it is no wonder that more people are researching on a cure. However, some cancer patients have sought immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, to cure cancer. Is this a better form of therapy than chemo or radiation?
Immunotherapy is still considered a growing process and a field that is still in need of more research and clinical trials. For now, it has managed to change the way cancer is treated, where people with advanced malignancies have gone through immunotherapy to prolong their living years and when it works, it is able to bring remissions that can last for years. While at other times, it ends up leaving the patients with side effects.
What is Immunotherapy?
It is a new form of treatment that can help cancer patients get rid of every cancer cell in their body. It works through the process of immune checkpoint inhibitors, which target the proteins that act as brakes on the immune system, allowing the immune system to attack the cancer cells.
Forms of Immunotherapy
Two forms of immunotherapy are currently available for cancer patients, which are checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T cells. Both forms, which come in the form of drugs, involve the T-cells working on the immune system to kills cells that are either damaged or infected. There are also monoclonal antibodies that are made to bind specific targets in the body and can destroy cancer cells.
Macrophage: Another form of immunotherapy
Unlike checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T cells, the macrophage is still a work in progress by scientists that think this is a new avenue of immunotherapy, which can help many people. Macrophage does not focus on T-cells but on white blood cells. This process destroys microbes as well as other foreign substances. The side effects were minor and this process helped the cancer to shrink in patients.
How immunotherapy can help
While the outcome is not the same for every patient, some patients have been really grateful to this process due to its extraordinary results and has been able to help in many types of cancer. According to scientists, immunotherapy has also been able to help advanced cancer patients, including those with melanoma and breast cancer patients. When it works, the cancer cells would have been destroyed little by little in the body and this has helped to extend the duration of the patients’ lives. According to JAMA, a health journal, “Patients with advanced cancer are increasingly living for years, not months.”
What are the side effects?
Scientists have found that not all patients suffer from the same side effects but some of the common ones include:
- Rash and/or blisters, covering less than 10% of the body
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Other than the common side effects, there are some severe side effects that can be life-threatening and they may occur right after the treatment or after the treatment ends. These severe side effects are:
- Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis)
- Inflammation of the lung (pneumonitis)
- Hormone or gland problems
- Inflammation of the colon (colitis)
- Inflammation of the brain (neuropathy, meningitis, or encephalitis)
- Kidney problems, including kidney failure
- Complicated skin reactions
- Severe infections
- Eye problems
- Severe infusion reactions
Immunotherapy in Singapore
The National Cancer Centre Singapore has research programmes that aim to help cancer patients and educate them about this new cancer treatment. For more information, you can get in touch with the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, where there’s even a Cancer Immunotherapy Month. Parkway Cancer Centre is quite updated with the latest developments of immunotherapy as well.
Immunotherapy in Malaysia
The local health news has called immunotherapy a treatment that helps patients live longer and have claimed that this treatment shows promise. Cancer patients in Malaysia can contact the Parkway Cancer Centre for any information on immunotherapy. There is also the Cancer Research Malaysia that has all the latest developments in the treatments of immunotherapy. Beacon Hospital currently offers different forms of treatments. For any details or information, cancer patients in Malaysia can visit or contact any of the above places.
Photo Credit: immunology.org, Pixabay and Unsplash