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Understanding Immunotherapy

Understanding Immunotherapy

Your immune system is an amazing component of your body. When you’re healthy, it fights off dangerous diseases and infections that would otherwise wreak havoc on your organs and tissues. However, sometimes your immune system is compromised — especially when you have cancer. Immunotherapy is a treatment that’s offered to help you fight cancer using your own immune system.

Cancer treatment is our specialty at Hunterdon Oncology and Hematology. Our team consists of five expert oncologists and hematologists who are up-to-date on the latest and best treatments for your specific type of cancer.

What is immunotherapy?

There are many different types of cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation. However, immunotherapy is different because it has the ability to boost your body’s natural defense against cancer — your immune system.

Immunotherapy is an umbrella term, meaning there are several different kinds of treatment. Each type works to strengthen some part of your immune system, so it can fight off cancer more effectively. 

We’ll talk about specific types of immunotherapy below, but the main goal of this class is to boost your body’s response to cancer cells by making your immune system more aware of cancerous invaders in your body.

There are a lot of potential uses for immunotherapy, and it yields several major benefits over other types of cancer treatments. The main benefit is that immunotherapy uses your own body to systematically fight cancer. Other benefits include:

While this type of treatment shows a lot of promise, it can have a down side as well. For example, you could have an allergic reaction to the treatment itself, or the medications used could damage your body in some way. 

Unfortunately, it also doesn’t work for everyone. That's because cancer cells sometimes find ways to outsmart your immune system and continue growing and spreading despite treatment.

Our team members are experts in cancer therapy, however, and they can help you determine if this form of therapy is right for you and your type of cancer.

Types of immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a very versatile type of cancer treatment; in fact, there are many different types of treatment. Our team discusses your options based on the type of cancer you have and what works best for you.

At our facility, we offer several different options for immunotherapy. These options include:

Treatment vaccines

A vaccine is a type of therapy that helps your immune system recognize and fight off specific infections and diseases. There are many different cancer vaccines, including one that fights off cancer related to the human papillomavirus (HPV). Hepatitis B is another vaccine, one that helps prevent liver cancer.

Immune system modulators

This type of therapy targets specific areas of your immune system, teaching them to fight off cancer cells. The modulators are used to enhance your immune response to certain types of cancer. This therapy is sometimes used together with treatment vaccines.

Monoclonal antibodies

Your body makes antibodies when it senses a foreign invader. Monoclonal antibodies mimic your own antibodies, but are produced in a laboratory. They’re made of proteins that can attach to specific structures on the cancer cells’ surface, either destroying the cells or preventing their proliferation. 

These antibodies also have the ability to transport radioactive materials and medications to the tumor directly.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors

Just like anything in your body, your immune system is structured so it works when needed but doesn’t go overboard when it’s not. Checkpoints keep it from going into overdrive when not threatened.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors work by overpowering the checkpoints, allowing for a stronger and more effective response to cancer cells. 

T-cell transfer therapy

T-cell transfer therapy uses immune cells from your tumor. For this to work, our providers extract the strongest and most vital immune cells from the tumor itself.

Once the T-cells are extracted, the lab modifies them to be even stronger and more effective against the tumor they came from, then makes a small army of them to infuse back into your body. There, they have an enhanced response to the tumor.

To learn more about how immunotherapy can help you, call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-788-6461 to schedule an appointment with one of our amazing doctors today.

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