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What is Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is designer drugs or medications that are designed to enhance the body's immune system that attack the cancer cells, thereby killing it. This immunologic change reduces the ability of cancer cells to divide, growth and spread. There are different types of immunotherapy, but the commonest ones used in cancer treatment are call checkpoint inhibitors. Checkpoints are breaks that the cancer cells apply on the immune system and inhibiting them jumpstarts the immune system resulting in cancer cell death.
If you are looking for immunotherapy in India, then consult the best cancer hospital near you.
What is the benefit of immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is used in the treatment of many types of cancers in various stages. It is generally used in advanced stages of cancer to improve symptoms caused by cancer and increasing the duration of life.
At Cancer Therapy Hospitals, we have the best oncologists in India who specialize in surgery, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy for cancers in Bangalore.
How is Immunotherapy given?
Immunotherapy is generally given as infusions in the vein. They enter the blood circulation and influence the immune cells to attack the cancer cells wherever they are in the body. Immunotherapy treatment requires a daycare admission in an Oncology day care unit, and patients are discharged the same day. Immunotherapy is generally given at regular intervals of 2 to 3 weekly for prolonged duration often for many months until the time it is no longer working. Immunotherapy drug doses are generally calculated based on the patient's weight or come as standard recommended dosing depending upon the drug.
What are the side-effects of immunotherapy?
Since immunotherapy can also affect some healthy cells, it can lead to side effects and hence should be taken under the care of doctors who are trained in delivering the treatment safely and do it regularly. Different Immunotherapy drugs have other side-effect profiles, and the patient should discuss it with their cancer specialist in detail before starting the treatment. Since the healthy cells can repair themselves, most of the side-effects will improve or go away with time or by giving medicines that suppress the immune cells. Generally, if the side effects are severe, then the Immunotherapy medicines may be delayed or stopped, and alternative treatment started.
How to prepare for immunotherapy?
Before preparing for immunotherapy, it is essential to confirm your appointment with your doctor or team and ensure the bed is booked.
Prior to starting any Immunotherapy, a blood test is usually done the previous day or on the same day before treatment. Immunotherapy is given only if the blood reports are within acceptable limits. If not, then the treatment may be cancelled or delayed. Additional treatment such as blood transfusions or IV fluids may be required to correct any abnormalities.
On the morning of treatment, it is best to have a light meal with high fibre content and take all regular medications the patient may be taking for other disease or as advised by your doctor
Wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothes and comfortable footwear.
It is essential to come to the hospital with a relative or friend and not come alone.
Since the treatment may take a few hours and occasionally the whole day, it is crucial to carry some entertainment or distraction such as books, music or movies with you to keep you occupied.
When coming to the hospital, please bring all your previous reposts and medical file with you.
Prior to the treatment, the patient's weight will be checked, the dose of the immunotherapy calculated and given as per the prescription of your treating doctor.
Before the treatment, the patient will be asked to sign a consent form, which should be read thoroughly and signed only if happy with its content. If there are any concerns, it should be raised with the treating doctor.
How is IV Immunotherapy delivered?
Intravenous (IV) Immunotherapy is usually given in an Oncology day unit or Oncology ward by nurses and pharmacist trained in the delivery of this treatment. Immunotherapy delivery requires a unique skill set and needs to be done by qualified personnel to eliminate errors and ensure treatment is done safely.
Prior to commencing the treatment, a doctor will review the patient and blood reports and prescribe the Immunotherapyif all is ok. Following the prescription, the drugs will be mixed with IV fluids in a sterile hood.
Once the treatment is over the patient should be able to go home soon after. Patients may be advised to take some medications after treatment for a few days to prevent certain side-effects.
At the time of discharge from the hospital, patients get a discharge summary. Full details of all the treatment given and a list of drugs to take at home is provided in the discharge summary.
The patient will also be intimated with the next treatment date or follow up.
The patient and family members need to have the doctor's or hospital's emergency contact number in case any emergency arises when the patient is at home.
Which cancers are treated with immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy drugs have been used to treat several forms of cancer.
It can be given along with chemotherapy, targeted therapy or on its own depending upon the type of cancer.
How long is immunotherapy given for cancer?
In some cases, immunotherapy is given up to 2 years or more, but clinical trials are now testing if the treatment can be provided for a shorter period of time once it has begun to work, or whether ongoing treatment is necessary.
How do I know if immunotherapy is working?
Generally, a positive response to immunotherapy is defined by a shrinking or stable tumor. Although immunotherapy side effects like inflammation may be an indication that it is affecting the immune system in some way, the exact relation between immunotherapy side effects and treatment success is unclear. Usually your oncologist does a scan after 3 to 4 treatments to see if immunotherapy is working or not. Sometimes the cancer can get worse before it gets better and you should discuss this with your oncologist.
What is the success rate of immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy treats some cancer better than others. In some patients, immunotherapy may destroy the cancer cells completely while in others it might not work at all. Patients who have microsatellite instability (MSI-H) or expression of PDL1 are more likely to respond to immunotherapy.
Do you lose your hair with immunotherapy?
Hair thinning is more common with hormone therapy, targeted cancer drugs, and immunotherapy. Hair loss is not a common feature of immunotherapy, however, some people may experience hair loss.
What are the disadvantages of immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy may rev up your immune system and sometimes makes you feel like you have the flu, complete with fever, chills, and fatigue.
When is immunotherapy commonly used?
Immunotherapy is mostly used in most cancers either in combination with chemotherapy, targeted therapy or on its own. The commonest cancer in which immunotherapy is used are lung cancer, oral cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, lymphoma, stomach cancer, esophagus cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer, etc.
What happens when immunotherapy doesn't work?
No one can know for sure if the treatment is working or not, but there are some signs that can tell that the immunotherapy is not working. Talk to your cancer doctor if you have a cough, pain, trouble breathing, or any other symptom that concerns you. They may be a sign that cancer is getting worse.
Having side effects doesn’t mean that the therapy is not working but a severe reaction to the therapy may require you to stop the treatment. If immunotherapy is not working, then talk to your medical oncologist to evaluate other options.
Does immunotherapy extend life?
Immunotherapy works by utilizing the power of your own body's immune system. It targets metastatic melanoma in a way that can extend lives for months or years and in a few cases get rid of the disease.
Does immunotherapy weaken the immune system?
These treatments improve the body's immune responses to cancer cells, but sometimes they change the way the immune system works. As a result, people who received immunotherapy may be at higher risk of getting infections and having a weaker immune system.
What is the cost of immunotherapy in India?
Immunotherapy cost in Bangalore varies based on facilities provided by the hospital and the duration of the treatment. However, there are some patients in whom the lower dose is sufficient to "charge" their immune system enough to fight cancer cells. The cost of immunotherapy can vary from 1 lakh to 5 lakhs per month depending upon the drug and dose used.
How can I get immunotherapy?
Cancer Therapy has some of the best immunotherapy doctor in India who are expert in delivering immunotherapy. Cancer Therapy India is one of the best immunotherapy hospital in India. At Cancer Therapy, we have the best oncologists in India who specialize in surgery, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy for cancers in Bangalore
Senior Consultant – Medical Oncology, Hematology & Bone Marrow Transplant
Senior Consultant – Medical Oncology, Hematology & Bone Marrow Transplant