Immunotherapy for Cancer: What You Need to Know
The proper functioning of the immune system is one of the most important factors for survival in the face of a disease like cancer. Overall, this system can detect when cells suffer alterations such as those that lead to cancer and has the ability to destroy them. However, have you heard about immunotherapy for cancer?
First of all, let’s remember that cancer arises from the modification of the behavior and structure of the cells that make up an organ. Once these changes occur, the body can find that cell and initiate a whole host of defense processes.
Thanks to these processes, it’s able to make that cell and other cells suffering from the same disorder disappear. However, the problem of cancer begins when cancer cells manage to circumvent the aforementioned defense systems. Then, this allows them to continue to grow excessively.
Fortunately, in recent years, our understanding of the immunology that permeates cancer disease has advanced dramatically. With this, new therapeutic modalities such as immunotherapy for cancer have emerged.
Below, we’ll tell you more about it.
What is immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is a therapeutic strategy used to optimize the immune system so that cells increase their capacity to fight cancer from within our body. Essentially, it works through two mechanisms to fight cancer:
- By stimulating or boosting the immune system to be more intelligent and aggressive in finding and attacking cancer cells.
- By making substances similar to molecules used by our immune system. Thus, this helps restore or improve its functioning.
Modalities of immunotherapy for cancer
Next, it’s important to understand that immunotherapy is a term used to refer to more than one treatment. However, each of these treatments work by taking advantage of different characteristics of the immune system.
Overall, among the immunotherapy modalities we can find:
First of all, vaccines are substances that are introduced into the body. Basically, they initiate a response in our immune system against certain diseases.
We’re used to thinking that vaccines are given to healthy people to help prevent infections. However, some vaccines can help prevent or treat cancer.
Next, this is a new form of treatment that uses genetically modified viruses to infect and kill cancer cells.
In addition, read: What Are the Side Effects of Cancer Treatments?
Immune checkpoint blockade inhibitors
Cancer contains genetic mutations that allow our body to recognized it as a foreign entity. This, in turn, helps the body attack these cells. After all, in some cases, cancer has the ability to block the response of the cells responsible for defending us.
Immune checkpoint blockade inhibitors work by restructuring the response to cancer cells. Therefore, this allows the body to respond and eliminate cancer.
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy
Next, in this modality, treatment involves exposing the cancer patient’s T cells to a genetically modified virus. Then, this exposure seeks to teach the T cells to detect and attack cancer cells.
Basically, monoclonal antibodies are synthetic proteins. They emulate those of the immune system. Overall, these antibodies are designed to target proteins found on the surface of cancer cells. Essentially, this immunotherapy modality helps the immune system destroy cancer cells.
The side effects of immunotherapy
Every treatment brings with it side effects. Thus, in the case of immunotherapy, these side effects appear in large part due to the stimulation of the immune system to attack. Thus, in other words, the immune system attacks healthy cells and organs.
Overall, among the most common side effects we may find include:
- Skin rashes
- Variations in blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
In addition, read: Do You Know about the Genetic Basis of Cancer?
What to remember about cancer immunotherapy
In conclusion, immunotherapy is an innovative cancer treatment strategy that seeks to utilize the human body’s ability to detect and attack cancer cells. There are different immunotherapy treatment modalities. However, they all work by promoting the restoration and enhancement of our body’s innate defense system.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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- Farkona, S., Diamandis, E. P., & Blasutig, I. M. (2016). Cancer immunotherapy: The beginning of the end of cancer? BMC Medicine, 14(1), 73. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-016-0623-5
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