An Explanation Of Immunotherapy

Written by on August 24, 2012 in Health - No comments | Print this page


Scientists have been studying the effects of the immune system for many years and this has led to research into the way in which the immune system’s response can be utilised to treat diseases such as cancer. Also known as biologic therapy or biotherapy, immunotherapy, as its name suggests, targets your immune system to elicit a favourable response to a specific medical condition.

There are two main types of immunotherapy: activation and suppression immunotherapy. Activation immunotherapy is designed to boost your immune system to fight off diseases such as cancer. Suppression immunotherapy, on the other hand, is used to prevent your immune system from producing a response. Suppression immunotherapy is used in the treatment of autoimmune disorders and severe allergies.

In the past few decades, activation immunotherapy has turned out to be an important treatment for several different types of cancer. This form of immunotherapy can help you to fight off cancer cells by either promoting your immune system’s own protein production or by providing your immune system with synthetic proteins.

Immunotherapy has been found to work more efficiently with certain types of cancer. While the treatment can be used as a sole therapy for certain types of cancer, it has a tendency to function more efficiently when it is used alongside other forms of cancer treatment.

The main forms of immunotherapy used to treat cancer are:

Monoclonal antibodies
Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system. When you receive monoclonal antibodies, you will be provided with synthetic versions of these proteins. Antibodies are useful in the treatment of cancer as they can be created to target specific parts of cancer cells.

Cancer vaccines
Vaccines are substances introduced into your body to stimulate the production of antibodies. While you may consider vaccines to be substances given to healthy individuals to help to prevent infections, certain types of vaccines can treat cancer.

Non-specific immunotherapies
These treatments are designed to boost your immune system as a whole and can promote greater immune system activity against cancer cells.

Immunotherapy is used to treat a range of cancers, including bladder, colon, breast, kidney, lung and prostate cancers. In addition, immunotherapy can be used in the treatment of leukaemia, lymphoma, melanoma and multiple myeloma. As the majority of immunotherapy treatments work by targeting specific areas of cancer cells, these treatments are considered to be a form of targeted medical treatment, which contrasts from less specific treatments, such as chemotherapy.

As with all types of medical treatment, immunotherapy can cause side effects. The side effects of immunotherapy differ from person to person but may include flu-like symptoms, such as chills, fever, nausea and loss of appetite. Fatigue is a common side effect of immunotherapy. Rashes or swelling may result at the injection site and your blood pressure may fall following treatment. Treatment may cause other side effects and these will be discussed by your doctor.

Many other forms of immunotherapy are currently being researched for use against cancer. Future immunotherapy treatments are likely to work more effectively than current treatments and will revolutionise cancer treatment further still.

This is a guest post.  Written by Kat Kraetzer, an experienced blogger working in the health-care industry for many years.

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