Health Information

Cancer Immunotherapy


The formation of malignant neoplasms occurs in almost every third person. Oncology is one of the first places in the world in diagnostics. Scientists are still in search of a better method in the treatment of cancer of human organs. Immunotherapy is a method of treating cancer with antibodies. This is a new method developed jointly by scientists and medical practitioners. Immunotherapy has qualitatively changed the approach to the prognosis of pathology in certain groups of patients, providing a high chance of a full recovery and a return to a former life.

Method Description

Immunity reacts sharply to the presence of a foreign cell - the body begins to actively produce antibodies that destroy pathogens. The human immune system is designed to be able to combat the present atypical pathogens. A cancerous tumor forms when a cell with altered DNA chromosomes begins to rapidly divide. At the initial stage, the sick pathogen produces a minimum of toxin, which reduces the result of the recognition of dangerous tumors by the immune system. In the later stages of the disease, the system cannot cope, which leads to the massive spread of metastases throughout the body.

Oncological formations are known that produce substances that adversely affect the immune system. Such tumors inhibit the protective functions of the body, which leads to a sharp deterioration in the patient's well-being. In such cases, the help of the immune system is required in order for the body to fight the disease.

Immunotherapy is a treatment that involves artificially affecting the immune system with drugs. The principles of the method are to stimulate protective functions or suppress non-specific functions. When activating the body's natural defenses, drugs are used that stimulate hidden reserves to fight the disease. In selected cases, immunology is required to suppress protective activity, as the body destroys healthy cells.

Immunodiagnosis is a modern method of therapy aimed at stimulating the body to independently fight diseases of a different nature. Traditional therapy is aimed at eliminating the effects of pathology. With immunotherapy, the direction of therapeutic action affects the cause of the disease, which increases the effectiveness of the treatment.

When using this therapy, side effects are practically absent, which increases the advantage over others. The immune method is readily used in oncology, in the treatment of infectious pathologies, allergic reactions, endometriosis and others. Clinical studies of patients show a qualitative resonance of therapeutic measures, which has a positive effect on life expectancy.

Therapies used in oncology

Oncology immunotherapy helps trigger the body's natural defenses. This is a new method developed by scientists. A number of therapeutic methods are known that are often used by medical centers:

  • Specific immunoprophylaxis uses drugs that contain cancer antigens. This is an effective method in the treatment of oncology. Used in the combined treatment of cancer. Allergen specific immunotherapy (ASIT) launches natural reserves to fight cancer. Antigen-specific therapy uses drugs that contain dendritic cells. Prescribing such drugs increases the body's resistance to the formation of a new tumor. At the initial stage of lung cancer, the method allows the patient to live for more than 5 years in 25% of all cases. With oncology of the ovaries of stage 3-4, it is possible to extend the life of the patient up to 5 years in 35%.
  • Non-specific methods of immunotherapy are used to treat diseases of an infectious nature - typhoid fever, dysentery and others. Against cancer, such methods are rarely used. Nonspecific immunotherapy for cancer is used only in the initial stages of formation. One of these methods was blood transfusion - up to 100-200 ml per day. But at the same time there is a danger of contracting hepatitis, HIV infection or other serious pathologies. There must be a strong argument for transfusion. Sometimes instead of blood, native plasma is used, enriched with proteins and immunoglobulins - this stops the action of oncological pathogens and inhibits tumor growth.

Cancer with metastases in distant parts of the body is difficult to treat and is accompanied by formidable symptoms. Therefore, it is urgently necessary to stop the further spread of the disease.

What are the types of immunotherapy?

At the moment, different types of immunotherapy are available to oncologists:

  • Monoclonal antibodies. These drugs are artificial analogues of the immune system. Each of them has a specific target - a specific substance produced by cancer cells.
  • Control point inhibitors. Control points are substances that suppress the immune system. Normally, they are needed so that the immune system does not attack healthy tissues. Cancer cells often use breakpoints to "mask". Inhibitors remove this block, after which the tumor is attacked.
  • Cancer vaccines. The body can be vaccinated not only against infections, but also against cancer. The first such vaccine was approved in America back in 2010. The patient is injected with substances that produce tumor cells to stimulate the immune response.
  • Immunity Modulators. Typically, such drugs include interferons, interleukins, growth factors. They improve the immune system nonspecifically - that is, not against any specific components of cancer cells, but in general.
  • Cell immunotherapy. This direction has shown success in some studies. The bottom line is that the patient takes their own immune cells, activates them against the components of the tumor, then propagates a new activated clone in the laboratory and returns the patient to the body. Such a "landing" begins to aggressively attack cancer cells. This helps to reduce or completely destroy the tumor.

Many scientists believe that immunotherapy has a future in cancer treatment. Research in this direction is ongoing, new drugs are being developed and tested in laboratories.

Monoclonal antibodies

Alien substances in the human body are called antigens. In response to their introduction, the immune system produces specific protein molecules - antibodies. Each antibody binds to its corresponding antigen, after which a series of events occurs, leading to the destruction of the foreign agent.

Monoclonal antibodies are essentially artificial substitutes for human’s own antibodies. Each of them finds its target molecule in the body and binds to it. In the case of oncological diseases, such a target is a certain substance, which cancer cells produce in a sufficiently large amount, and healthy cells in a very small amount, or do not produce it at all.

Different monoclonal antibodies act differently:

  • "Mark" cancer cells and make them "visible" for immunity,
  • destroy the membrane of cancer cells,
  • block the growth of a tumor or blood vessels,
  • block substances that prevent the immune system from recognizing cancer,
  • directly destroy the tumor.

Monoclonal antibodies can be used to deliver other drugs to cancer cells. For example, you can attach a radioactive particle or chemotherapeutic agent to an antibody molecule.

In recent years, more than a dozen different monoclonal antibodies have been approved and introduced into clinical practice in the world. They are used to treat a number of malignant tumors with certain molecular genetic characteristics. Currently, scientists are working on the creation of new drugs, some drugs are being tested and may soon be introduced into clinical practice.

Keitruda (Pembrolizumab)

Keitruda is a monoclonal antibody targeted for PD-1, a programmed cell death receptor. The drug helps to remove the “disguise” of cancer cells, as a result, the immune system can recognize and attack them.

PD-1 is a receptor that resides on the surface of T cells. When it interacts with the PD-L1 protein, the proliferation of immune cells slows down, they cease to secrete cytokines and attack the tumor tissue. Keytruda breaks this connection and removes the block from lymphocytes:

Pembrolizumab was approved for use in America in September 2014. Currently, it is used to treat melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck tumors. Kaitruda is usually prescribed for non-curable tumors that cannot be removed surgically if other treatments do not help.

Nivolumab (Opdivo)

Nivolumab, like Keitruda, is a PD-1 receptor protein inhibitor. In December 2014, this drug was approved in America for the treatment of melanoma. Currently, the main indications for the use of Nivolumab are: metastatic and inoperable melanoma, locally advanced or metastatic small-cell and non-small cell lung cancer, advanced renal cell carcinoma. In some cases, nivolumab is combined with another control point inhibitor, ipilimumab (Yervoy).

Rituximab (MabThera, Rituxan)

The target for rituximab is the CD20 receptor, which is located on the surface of B-lymphocytes. By connecting to the receptor, the drug causes NK cells (natural killers, a type of immune cell) to attack B-lymphocytes, both malignant and normal. After a course of treatment, the body produces new normal B-lymphocytes, their number is restored.

Rituximab was approved for use a long time ago - back in 1997. Currently, it is used to treat autoimmune and oncological diseases: chronic lymphocytic leukemia, pemphigus vulgaris, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura.

Ipilimumab (Yervoy)

The yerva binds to the CTLA-4 molecule and activates the immune system so that it can fight cancer. Studies show that the drug helps to permanently stop the growth of the tumor, and in 58% of cases it helps to reduce its size by at least a third.

Ipilimumab is used in patients suffering from late stage melanoma, lung cancer, and prostate.

Cytokines are non-specific stimulants of the immune system. They activate the immune system not against a specific antigen, but in general. Currently, two drugs are mainly used in oncology - interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-alpha.

Interleukin-2 is a molecule that carries biochemical signals between white blood cells. It accelerates the growth and reproduction of immune cells. This drug is used for common kidney cancer, metastatic melanoma. Sometimes IL-2 is combined with chemotherapy and other cytokines. At the same time, its effect is enhanced, but the risk of serious side effects increases.

Currently, studies are being conducted on the possibility of using other types of interleukins in oncology, such as IL-7, IL-12, IL-21.

Interferons are substances that take part in the fight against viruses and cancer cells. There are three types of interferon, named after the Greek alphabet - alpha, beta and gamma. Interferon-alpha drugs are used to treat cancer. They help strengthen the antitumor immune response, directly slow down the growth of cancer cells and blood vessels, which provide the tumor with oxygen and nutrients.

Interferon-alpha is used for kidney cancer, melanoma, hairy cell leukemia, some types of lymphoma, Kaposi's sarcoma.

Patient review of immunotherapy for melanoma treatment:

I’ll tell you how I was “treated” in one clinic, how I was saved in the European, and how I involuntarily had to become an expert in immunotherapy for melanoma.

I’m 41, I’m a former kayaker, my hair is black, my eyes are brown - that is, I normally tolerate a tan, my skin darkens quickly, and I don’t have burns. Of course, I heard that prolonged exposure to the sun is fraught with all sorts of problems, and since most of the time I spent just in the sun, I was regularly checked by a dermatologist. I learned from him that there is such a disaster as melanoma - skin cancer. But, according to him, she does not threaten me, just in view of the features of my skin.

Well, and, of course, they found melanoma in me. Moreover, which is insulting, not on the back or shoulders, which would be logical - these places are constantly under the rays, but on the hip.

First of all, on the advice of a dermatologist, I went to a well-known clinic. They accepted it willingly and said that the probability of a good outcome is high, since it was discovered early enough.

But, they safely lowered this gain to weekly examinations. According to the results, I was prescribed an operation a week later, and then Interferon. I turned to the same dermatologist who listened to me, and was somewhat surprised. He didn’t really say anything, but hinted that a second opinion could be obtained, but quickly.

That's when I turned to the European clinic. There I quickly received a PET CT scan and several more examinations, determined the absence of BRAF mutations, and, unfortunately, noted the beginning of the spread of the neoplasm. The operation was done immediately after the study. Then a course of immunotherapy - Oddivo. It is very lucky that the spread of the spot has just begun. Otherwise, as I understood later, for the time frames that were planned in the first clinic, one could wait for a serious spread and big trouble. Then there would be no Opdivo, and especially Interferon would not help. Now I feel great, for the place where there was a spot closely watched in the European. I’m still taking a course, there is no progression. After such prompt and technical actions, which essentially saved me, I trust them completely. Special thanks, of course, to Andrei Lvovich and Anna Alexandrovna. You can always see when the doctor is on your side and frankly explains what and how is being done in the field of oncology. Address them - they will do the best that is possible at all, and not what they usually do according to the instructions, of which half in Russia do not work.

Side effects of immunotherapy

Treatment with immunotherapeutic drugs has some things in common with chemotherapy. Such a similarity lies in the fact that tumor cells die within the organs and tissues of the body, and the body has to get rid of them, as a foreign harmful material. This is a very resource-intensive task, so the patient may experience symptoms caused by overstrain of various body systems.

Sometimes immunotherapy activates the immune cells excessively, and they begin to attack normal body tissues. Because of this, some side effects may occur:

  • When the mucous membrane of the oral cavity and pharynx is affected, painful ulcers occur on it that can become infected. Usually they pass within 5-14 days after the end of treatment.
  • Skin reactions: redness, swelling, dryness, increased sensitivity to light, cracks at the fingertips.
  • Flu-like symptoms: weakness, weakness, fever, chills, cough.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Headaches, dizziness.
  • Increase or decrease in blood pressure.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Dyspnea.
  • Swelling on the legs.
  • Weight gain due to fluid retention in the body.
  • Diarrhea.

Different immunologics have different side effects. It is better to talk to the doctor in advance and ask what problems can be expected during the course of treatment, how to deal with them.

How much is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is the most advanced drug treatment for cancer. The cost of cancer immunotherapy is rather big. Especially in comparison with other known methods. The cost of treatment depends on the type of immunotherapy used, the type and stage of the tumor, its degree of aggressiveness. The high price of immunotherapy is associated with the fact that the production of immunotherapy is a complex and expensive process.

In Russia, there are very few clinics that provide immunotherapy treatment. In most cases, in order to undergo immunotherapy, a Russian citizen has to turn to mediators for treatment abroad. These are mainly Israel, Germany and the USA. In this case, the cost of the flight and treatment will be a huge amount. But now in Russia there is an opportunity to undergo immunotherapeutic cancer treatment in Moscow at the European Clinic, which makes it accessible to many patients.

Advantages and disadvantages of immunotherapy

Cancer immunotherapy is a relatively new method, clinical studies of which have proved its effectiveness in the fight against a dangerous disease. Antitumor therapy requires an integrated approach using several types of drugs. A person can live more than 5 years in the presence of a severe stage of the tumor using the specified method.

Doctors highlight the benefits of immunotherapy:

  • The protective functions of the body are launched in the fight against cancer.
  • Cancer antigens are used that stimulate the active points of the immune system.
  • Immunity increases, which stimulates the recognition of cancer pathogens.
  • The method is characterized by painlessness and is often prescribed to people who should not use chemotherapy with gamma rays.

Despite the effectiveness of therapy, the method has disadvantages that must be considered before use:

  • Perhaps the manifestation of side effects, expressed by inflammatory processes in the tissues of the kidney.
  • Sometimes there is a high protein content in the urine.
  • Signs of nephrotic syndrome.
  • Fever.
  • Disruption of the central nervous system, which is accompanied by irritation and excitement.
  • General fatigue, manifested for no apparent reason.
  • The development of heart failure on the background of the drug.

In the presence of such symptoms, the drug is replaced with another with a similar effect or another type of therapy is selected. Treatment is carried out under strict medical supervision to exclude possible negative consequences.

Application of the method in the treatment of various types of oncology

Antigen-specific therapy is actively used by doctors in cancer education in the liver, cerebral cortex, esophagus, and glioblastoma. It is used for tumors in the tissues of the bladder, pancreas or prostate gland, in the neck of the uterus, chest, stomach, etc. Doctors individually select a course of therapy. The patient’s physical condition, medical indications, type and stage of the pathology affect the choice of medication.

Lungs' cancer

Oncology in lung tissue is one of the first places in diagnosis. Men suffer from the disease more often than women. The disease is characterized by high mortality among patients.

The body has a small amount of cancer antigens that can be affected by immunopreparations. It is effectively used in the treatment of the disease. Especially this method shows high efficiency during the diagnosis of non-small cell oncology, with small cell lung cancer, the percentage of recovery is lower.

In therapeutic measures, the following types are used:

  • The use of monoclonal antibodies to fight cancer
  • The use of inhibitors that suppress the protective reactions of the body,
  • Prescribing antitumor drugs
  • Cellular stimulation of the immune system, which is accompanied by therapeutic movement of T-lymphocytes.

In medical practice, there are examples of the occurrence of side effects, so the therapy takes place in a hospital under the supervision of a doctor.

Mammary cancer

Breast oncology ranks first among female diseases of a malignant nature. Diagnosed in 12% of all pathologies. With breast cancer, the production of the HER-2 receptor protein is increased - this leads to the rapid division of malignant pathogens. Breast cancer exhibits negative oncological properties that are found at the genetic level.

Immunotherapy is used in the presence of HER-2 protein in the neoplasm. The medicine is injected into the tumor tissue using a thin needle - this allows you to not injure healthy tissue. Side effects with this method of treatment are practically not diagnosed, so the drugs can be used in conjunction with others for a long period of time.

The patient has a slowdown in tumor growth, cancer cells gradually die. A woman can live more than 5 years and return to her former life.

Other types of oncology

The oncological process can begin in any organ - it depends on many factors. Cancer of the prostate, skin, blood, etc. A tumor in the brain adversely affects vision, memory, and coordination. Other severe symptoms that worsen the well-being of a person are also observed. It is difficult to determine the disease in the early stages due to the lack of pronounced signs. The first symptoms appear with metastases to other organs of the body.

Immunotherapy is used for the following types of oncology:

  • In melanoma, the use of antitumor antigens helps reduce cancer toxicity. Stimulating the function of protective functions helps stop the spread of melanoma throughout the body. For therapeutic purposes, Keitruda, Opdivo and others are used.
  • With an oncological formation in the tissues of the stomach up to stage 3, a surgical method of treatment is used. Immunotherapy is required at the last inoperable stage in order to stop the spread of metastasis and stop the severe symptoms of pathology. Apply - Trastuzumab, Ramucirumab, etc.
  • With kidney cancer, drugs from the group of cytokines, control point inhibitors are used.

The method has proven effective in treating a number of malignant diseases. The choice of drug depends on the type of tumor and the well-being of the patient.

Groups of drugs used in immunotherapy

Treatment with immunostimulants of malignant neoplasms is used at different stages. The method is used in combination with other therapeutic methods to increase the chances of recovery.

Doctors use similar groups of drugs:

  • Cytokines trigger a natural reaction of the immune system in the fight against malignant pathogens - Interleukin, Interferon.
  • The general vaccination, drawn up on schedule, increases the body's resistance to the oncological process.
  • Inhibitors help extend the patient's life to 5 years or more - Imatinib, CTLA4 inhibitor, etc.
  • Protein-containing receptors help slow down the immune response to cancer.
  • PDL1 inhibitor is used in the treatment of tumors of the brain, larynx and bladder.

Research in the direction of finding the best medicine in stimulating the immune system in various pathologies is still underway. Doctors also make observations on the use of the method in conjunction with chemotherapy, targeted drugs and radiation. You can’t use the drugs yourself, because this can provoke overdose symptoms with the development of complications.

Therapy process

Oncology therapy is largely dependent on the state of immunity. The use of artificial treatments shows a temporary result, which can be fixed by the natural responses of the body's defense system. By launching the body's immune response, specific biological agents are used. Drugs inhibit tumor growth, reviving the protective properties of the body.

Monoclonal antibodies are used as such drugs, which combine with internal antigens and begin a joint fight against the disease, and cytokines that stimulate the immune response to tumor formation. Antigens block the access of nutrients to cancer. This leads to a halt in the further growth of the tumor.

The substance is prepared individually using tumor biomaterial. Then comes the preparation of the vaccine with a thorough check. The course of therapy takes several months. The person is under the control of the attending physician - this allows you to monitor the condition of the disease.

Varieties of treatment

Each drug has a different effect on pathological formation. In connection with this action, the following types of treatment are distinguished:

  • Immunocorrection is aimed at triggering the body's natural defenses that are unable to fulfill their duties. The drugs correct the activity of immune cells that increase the resistance of the immune system.
  • Immunomodulating therapy affects all protective functions. The drug can slow down the immune system or, conversely, activate it - it depends on the type of pathology and the condition of the patient.
  • Immunorestruction involves the transplantation of donor stem cells to stimulate the body's immune defenses. This type is effectively used by oncology clinics in Israel for many years.
  • Autoserotherapy is characterized by the introduction of serum from blood heated to 56 degrees. The biomaterial is used by the donor or the patient himself. The course lasts 16-24 days.
  • Autopiotherapy differs from autoserotherapy with the serum used. In the form of biomaterial, pus appears from the inflamed focus of the person himself. The course lasts 1-10 days.
  • Substitution therapy is used to stimulate the production of immunoglobulin protein. This stimulates the body's active struggle with the disease.

The immunotherapy procedure is distinguished by a private approach and a long course period, because serum is prepared from its own biomaterial. A person remains under the supervision of a doctor to identify complications in the early stages.