Updated: Mar 19
What Is Immunotherapy and How Does it Work?
Immunotherapy is an exciting new approach to cancer treatment. Immunotherapy is designed to increase the strength and performance of your immune system. This allows your body to fight off the infection by itself without the need the more traditional forms of cancer treatment such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Radiation and chemotherapy can be a difficult and grueling process for the patient given the side effects of these treatment methods. With immunotherapy, you won't experience hair loss, intense pain, or excessive weakness. In fact, the most common side effects of immunotherapy are flu likes systems. There are three types of Immunotherapy.
1. Nonspecific Immune Stimulation
Nonspecific Immune Stimulation is a type of Immunotherapy where the entire immune system is essentially given a boast. This boast can be caused by a drug that stimulates the production of immune system cells that fight cancer. Nonspecific Immune Stimulation can also be used after a surgery that involved the removal of a tumor. This treatment destroys any cancer that was left behind after the surgery and can prevent cancer from coming back.
2. T-Cell Transfer Therapy
T-Cells are a very powerful white blood cell that is found in our bloodstream. T-cells are one of the main types of cells that destroy "pathogens" (microbes that cause disease) in our bodies. In T-Cell Transfer Therapy blood is taken from a patient and the T-cells are then taken out of the blood sample. The cells are taken to a lab where they are modified by scientists to better fight cancer. Then many T-cells are grown in a lab and finally put back in the patient's body.
3. Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
As stated above T-Cells are very powerful white blood cells that destroy "bad cells" in the body. What prevents this powerfull cell from destroying normal and healthy is something called a "checkpoint". In this process the T-cell communicates with the cell it comes into contact with, and if it is a healthy human cell the T-cell leaves it alone. However, if it a damaged cell or a foreign bacterial cell the T-Cell destroys it. Cancer cells actually disguise themselves as a healthy cell which prevents the T-Cell from destroying them. Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor therapy activates the T-Cells preventing them from being fooled by the cancer cells. This allows the T-cells to attack and destroy and fight off cancer.
How this Affects Healthcare Workers
When working in Healthcare as a Patient Care Technician, Phlebotomy Technician, EKG Technician, Medical Assitant, or Surgical Technician odds are you will come across who have cancer. Knowing and understanding cancer treatment methods can allow you to really help your patient through a physically and emotionally challenging time.