If you have a loved one who is undergoing treatment for cancer, you must have heard the term immunotherapy as one of the most effective types of treatment for different types of cancer.

Here are some things you need to remember during the treatment.

The Immune System is the Key

Immunotherapy is sometimes called biotherapy because it’s supposed to use the cancer patient’s immune system to attack the cancer cells, although biologic therapy is just one form of immunotherapy. Generally, immunotherapy works by supplying your immune system with a boost to fight off cancer cells or stimulating your immune system to attack only the cancer cells.

The immune system is the key to fighting the cancer cells because they are responsible for keeping track of foreign substances in the body. However, the difficulty of this approach lies in the immune system’s failure to recognize the cancer cells that are growing out of control. Immunotherapy’s goal is to give the immune system a hand in fighting these cancer cells and to make it strong enough to fight back.

Other Treatments Should Not Stop

Most successful cases of immunotherapy have worked because other treatments were also applied, but there are types of cancers where immunotherapy is the only available option. Currently, there are four types of immunotherapy used to help cancer patients.

These include monoclonal antibodies, or man-made proteins that are modified to target only the cancer cells; cancer vaccines that are supposed to help the body fight off infections and prevent cancer; immune checkpoint inhibitors, or medication designed to recognize and attack only the cancer cells; and nonspecific immunotherapy, or treatments that help the immune system although it is not necessarily just to aid in fighting cancer cells.

One of the benefits of immunotherapy include the long-lasting remissions, because the body can be trained to remember to target cancer cells. In fact, the patient can choose to maintain immunotherapy even after the completion of the treatment.

Immunotherapy Works with Different Types of Cancers

Promising results of immunotherapy has helped patients with cancer in the brain, bladder, cervical, breast, colorectal, esophageal, head and/or neck, kidney, bone marrow and lymphatic system (leukemia), lung, liver, ovary, pancreas, prostate, and stomach. Immunotherapy is also beneficial for patients undergoing treatment for melanoma, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, sarcoma, and childhood cancer. The side effects of immunotherapy are generally mild and will not need treatment, unless they develop into severe problems.

Side effects include fever, loss of appetite, muscle pain, weakness, nausea and vomiting, rashes, bruising, and diarrhea. Furthermore, immunotherapy has also been useful in treatment programs for Chron’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Immunotherapy has been shown to help suppress the T-cell differentiation among people with the incurable Chron’s disease, and it can also slow down the progression and damage to the joints and tissues of people with rheumatoid arthritis.