One in four cancer patients who undergo immunotherapy treatment has a more effective and less toxic progress, likewise, continues to have good outcome years after going into remission, as stated by Dr. Antonio Brugarolas, head of Cancer Platform at Quirónsalud Alicante and Torrevieja.
Clinical studies conducted over the past five years have shown the significant effect of immunotherapy on the survival of cancer patients and it is transforming the lives of many patients while opening the door to further research.
Immunotherapy and types of cancer
As for which type of cancer, immunotherapy can be applied, Dr. Joseba Rebollo, a specialist from Cancer Platform at Quirónsalud Alicante and Torrevieja, explains that, although it can be applied to all types of tumors, it is head and neck, lung, bladder, kidney, breast, melanoma, skin cancer, liver cancer, lymphomas or leukemias that are showing the best outcomes in the studies.
This benefit has been observed in the metastatic stage and in many cases also in the early stage of these tumors, which has led to a high expectation that it can be introduced in earlier stages of the disease and increase the chances of cure.
How does immunotherapy work?
Drugs used in immunotherapy are administered intravenously over repeated sessions every two or three weeks.
These drugs are responsible for generating an immune system reaction against tumors leading to the destruction of tumors, this reaction does not occur naturally in cancer patients because the tumor prevents it.
In addition to the immunotherapy drugs marketed by the industry, new specific immunotherapy treatments are being developed that use cells from the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.
Dr. Juan José Mata, Immunology specialist and head of the cancer cell immunotherapy programs at Quirónsalud Torrevieja, explains that the patient’s immune system cells can be isolated and processed ex vivo in specialized facilities called “clean rooms” to identify and specifically eliminate each patient’s tumor cells.
Side effects of immunotherapy
As for the side effects of immunotherapy, it does not cause hair loss or develop sores, although it can sometimes cause an autoimmune disease syndrome. The clinical manifestations are easy to identify and treat, and generally immune treatments must be discontinued.
However, cellular treatments are significantly more complex and often produce an acute and rapid fever, lung or neurological condition due to a massive release of immunological substances which require urgent specialized treatments.
While immunotherapy is not the definitive solution against cancer, nor has it been proven that it can cure if administered on a standalone basis, it does increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy, certainly helps to cure many cancers and undoubtedly improves the quality of life of patients. What is truly essential is to have a multidisciplinary approach in cancer treatments and to understand that a single specialty does not cover the entire procedure, instead different departments must work with a patient simultaneously and permanently, collaborating with each other.