Immunotherapy an Innovative Treatment for Cancer

There are many types of cancer treatments. The most common ones are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. With technological advancement, there is a new innovative treatment for cancer called immunotherapy. It enhances a patient’s immunity to fight cancer and also improves the quality of life.

How immunotherapy works against cancer?

Your immune system helps your body fight off diseases and infections. The immune system keeps track of all of the substances normally found in the body. Any new substance that the immune system does not recognize raises an alarm, causing the immune system to attack it. The immune response can destroy foreign substances, such as germs or cancer cells. However, there are limits on the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. Sometimes it does not see the cancer cells as foreign because the cells are not different from the normal cells. Also, cancer cells themselves can give off substances that keep the immune system in check.

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that boosts the body’s natural immune system to fight the cancer. It helps the immune system recognize cancer cells and strengthen its responses, so that the immune system is able to destroy the cancer cells.

Knowing the immunotherapy drug 

Nivolumab and pembrolizumab are checkpoint inhibitors, a type of immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer. They block the signal that would have prevented activated T cells (white blood cells) from attacking cancer cells. Both drugs have been approved by US and Thai FDA.

1) Nivolumab

– can treat the following

  • Unresectable or metastatic melanoma as a single agent or in combination with ipilimumab
  • Metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with progression on or after platinum-based chemotherapy
  • Advanced renal cell carcinoma who have received prior anti-angiogenic therapy
  • Classical Hodgkin lymphoma that has relapsed or progressed after autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and brentuximab vedotin
  • Recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck with disease progression on  or after a platinum-based therapy
  • Locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma, which has progressed during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy.

2) Pembrolizumab

– can treat the following

  • Unresectable or metastatic melanoma
  • Metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors express PD-L1
  • Recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell cancer with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy

Both drugs have shown to delay disease progression and increase survival rate of cancer patients compared to chemotherapy.  In addition, side effects such as bone marrow suppression, nausea, and vomiting are less than chemotherapy. Therefore, they are being used widely as cancer treatment in many countries.

It is also important to note that the side effects of immunotherapy are different from chemotherapy. The side effect of immunotherapy is similar to an allergic reaction and has to be managed by a specialist.

“Immunotherapy is an innovative treatment for cancer. It increases the patient’s quality of life and survival rate. However, treatment options depend on the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects,  the patient’s preferences and overall health. All patients should have their treatment plan discussed with a multidisciplinary team.”

For more information:
Wattanosoth Hospital
(+66) 2755 1188 (Cancer Hotline 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM)
(+66) 2310 3000 (After 8:00 PM) or 1719 (Local Calls Only)
Email: [email protected]