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All about Immunotherapy

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy drugs assist the immune system in attacking the tumor. This type of treatment is very different from chemotherapy, for example, which directly attacks the cancerous cells but unfortunately also damages healthy tissues.

The immune system has “immune barriers” which serve to regulate the immune system and prevent it from attacking the body. In cancer these functions are readily activated and as a result, the immune system ceases to attack cancerous cells, enabling the tumor to grow and proliferate in the body.

Barriers known as PD-L1, PD-1 and CTLA-4 are found on T-cells and cancer cells. Immunotherapy is a revolutionary strategy, and one of the most widely studied worldwide for its application to numerous types of cancer and various stages of the disease’s development. Treatment is generally provided in the form of an intravenous infusion.

PD-1 drugs
Keytruda (Pembrolizumab)
Opdivo (Nivolumab)

PD-L1 drugs
• Tecentriq (Atezolizumab)
• Imfinzi (Durvalumab)

What are the most common side effects?

Reaction of the skin

Redness, blisters and dryness. The skin can become sensitive when exposed to sunlight. Inflammation around the fingernails can occur and cause pain when dressing, for example.

Flu-like symptoms

Fatigue, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, body pain and high or low blood pressure

Other side effects may be:

  • Muscle Pain
  • Difficulties in breathing
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Sinus congestion
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain due to accumulation of fluids
  • Diarrhea
  • Hormonal changes
  • Cough

And there could be more

Most of the side effects will disappear at the end of the immunotherapy treatment, but some can occur months and even years later.

It is important to consult with your healthcare professional about coping with side effects.

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For further reading

https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/immunotherapy-and-vaccines/side-effects-immunotherapy

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