Cancer is one of the biggest causes of death in the world. According to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 8.2 million people die each year from various types of cancer. Currently there are more than 100 types of cancer that attack humans. Meanwhile, the development of science and technology continues to race to stop the development of cancer throughout the world. One new breakthrough that has been developed is immune therapy for cancer patients, especially in advanced cancer. This immune therapy is known as immunotherapy for cancer.
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What is cancer immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that utilizes the human immune system to fight cancer. This can be done in two ways. The first is to stimulate your own immune system to stop the growth and proliferation of cancer cells in the body. The second way is to provide special man-made substances that have immune functions and properties, such as immune proteins.
How immunotherapy works
Your immune system consists of various organs, cells, and chemicals that can help attack viruses, bacteria, and germs that cause infection and disease. This is because the immune system has memorized any substances that are supposed to stay in your body. So, if there are irregularities or unknown substances, the immune system will immediately work to prevent unwanted reactions from the body.
However, during this time the immune system has difficulty directly killing cancer. This is because cancer is born when there are body cells that experience gene mutations and eventually grow or spread out of control. Because, mutations or cell changes are processes that usually occur in the body, so sometimes the immune system does not realize that this is threatening. But sometimes the immune system can distinguish which cells are normal and which cells contain cancerous elements. Unfortunately, at that time the cancer usually grows quite malignant so the immune system is overwhelmed to attack it.
Experts in the field of health and science actually see the promising potential of this problem. So, immunotherapy is developed for cancer so that your immune system can detect cancer growth faster and be able to fight it more systematically and effectively.
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Various types of immunotherapy for cancer
Immunotherapy for cancer has not been widely available in various hospitals around the world, unlike chemotherapy or radiotherapy. In Indonesia alone immunotherapy for cancer is still under development and research. However, this is the type of immunotherapy that has been studied and applied in developed countries such as the United States, Britain and Japan.
Monoclonal antibodies are a human-made immune system that can target certain cancer cells. The antibodies injected in this body will attach to the problematic cells so that the cell can be directly resisted.
Vaccines are a way to help the body fight disease. The vaccine given will trigger a reaction of the immune system to certain antigens, namely substances that can encourage antibody production. With these vaccines, the immune system will react to detect and prevent cancer cells.
There are two forms of T-cell therapy that are currently used to fight cancer. First, experts will take your immune cells that are actually able to detect and prevent cancer growth, but the numbers are too little or the response is too weak. These immune cells will then be duplicated in the laboratory and re-injected in the body so that the reaction becomes stronger. Secondly, your immune cells will be engineered in such a way as to work more effectively in detecting and stopping cancerous growth in the body.
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Side effects of immunotherapy
Like other cancer treatment therapies, immunotherapy for cancer can also cause side effects for patients. The most common side effects are pain, itching, or swelling in the part of the body that is injected with the immune system. In addition, side effects that may be experienced include:
- nausea and vomiting
- joint and muscle pain
- symptoms like wanting to get flu
- difficulty breathing
- high or low blood pressure.