Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses a person’s own immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy can boost or change how the immune system works so it can find and attack cancer cells. If your treatment plan includes immunotherapy, knowing how it works and what to expect can often help you prepare for treatment and make informed decisions about your care.
Unleashing the power of the immune system is a smart way to fight cancer:
- The immune system is precise, so it is possible for it to target cancer cells exclusively while sparing healthy cells.
- The immune system can adapt continuously and dynamically, just like cancer does, so if a tumour manages to escape detection, the immune system can re-evaluate and launch a new attack.
- The immune system’s “memory” allows it to remember what cancer cells look like, so it can target and eliminate cancer if it returns.
- Immunotherapy has the potential to treat all cancers.
- Immunotherapy enhances the immune system’s ability to recognize, target, and eliminate cancer cells, wherever they are in the body, making it a potential universal answer to cancer.
- Immunotherapy has been approved worldwide widely as a first-line of treatment for several cancers, and may also be an effective treatment for patients with certain cancers that are resistant to prior treatment.
- Immunotherapy may be given alone or in combination with other cancer treatments. As of December 2019, the FDA has approved immunotherapies as treatments for nearly 20 cancers as well as cancers with a specific genetic mutation.
- Cancer immunotherapy offers the possibility for long-term control of cancer.
Immunotherapy may be accompanied by side effects that differ from those associated with conventional cancer treatments, and side effects may vary depending on the specific immunotherapy used.