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Immunotherapy

What is it ?

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that stimulates the immune system to target and destroy cancer cells.

When cancer develops, cells are able to avoid the body’s immune system. The principle of immunotherapy is to assist the immune system in identifying these cells in order to destroy them.

Use

There are several forms of immunotherapy available within the oncology 
and hematology specialties that are designed to strengthen the immune system.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors

The immune system will speed up or slow down its immune response when it confronts the arrival of microbes in the body. It does this through a mechanism of ‘checkpoints.’ During an infection, the immune system accelerates its response in order to eliminate these external agents, and then slows down once all these external cells have been eliminated.

Cancer cells, obviously considered an external threat, have the ability to slow down the immune system so as not to be eliminated by it. Checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies therefore block the action of cancer cells to reactivate the immune system and thus destroy these cancer cells.

Today, immune checkpoint inhibitors target and block the action of the CTLA-4 protein, the PD-1 receptor or even the PDL-1 ligand.

 

Car T-cells

CAR T cells, or CART-cells, are T lymphocytes modified to express a receptor called Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) on their surface. The principle of this treatment is to take T lymphocytes from a patient and then genetically modify them to express this receptor that allows them to recognize cancer cells more specifically. Once the genetically modified lymphocytes have been obtained, they will be injected again into the same patient.  

Side Effects

Adverse effects of immunotherapy can affect multiple
and these side effects appear at different times during treatment.
To address them, it is necessary to first know how to identify them.
The most common side effects are :

Reaction to the infusion

Fatigue

Skin

Redness and itching

Gastrointestinal

Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

Endocrine-related symptoms

Respiratory

Cough and shortness of breath

Indications

These immunotherapies are used in the treatment of many types of cancer, including :
skin cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer,
triple negative breast cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma, lymphomas, etc.

Immunotherapy treatments are administered intravenously.
However, immunotherapy is not yet a common treatment option,
as many patients are not suitable candidates and not all cancers respond well.