Updated: Feb 6, 2020
This is a brief summary about immunotherapy and how it is being studied in trials for cancer treatment.
To date, there are a many immunotherapy treatment options for different cancers. If you could think of immunotherapy as a giant pie, with many different slices representing the types of immunotherapy treatment approaches. These immunotherapies are divided into 5 broad categories (or 5 slices):
1. Cell Based: Support the immune system of the patient with immune cells derived from stem cell transplants, and marrow transplants.
2.Immunomodulators: act on immune cells to create an anti-cancer effect. An example in this group include Antibody-based targeted therapies which support specific cells to stop tumor growth and tumor survival.
3. Vaccines: stimulate the immune system to act against cancer.
4. Oncolytic viruses – are viruses that enter cancer cells and cause a reaction which alerts the immune system to the tumor.
5. Cytokine therapies – the use of interferon and interleukin proteins to trigger an immune response against the tumor site.
These are this group which are known as Checkpoint Inhibitors. That is defined as an affect on immune cells, specifically T-cells.
Ipilimumab (Yervoy) for melanoma treatment
This group is an older one and has been around for a while. An example of this is the Baccillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, originally intended for treatment of tuberculosis but which is now used for treatment of bladder cancer.
This is a type of targeted therapy where a modified herpes virus virus is used to attack cancer cells while sparing normal healthy cells. An example of this is T-Vec for treatment of melanoma.
Interleukin-2 (IL2) is an example of a cytokine protein currently in use for metastatic kidney cancer and melanoma. Interferon-alpha is currently in use for treatment of certain lymphomas and leukemias in addition to metastatic melanoma and kidney cancer.
Can Naturopathic Oncology work with Immunotherapy?
The honest answer is that it depends on the type of immunotherapy, the length treatment has been going on for, what the side effects are, and what the overall health of the patient is. Often immunotherapies are combined with each other and with conventional therapies (chemotherapy & radiation) for a cumulative effect.
If you or a loved one may want to take part in an immunotherapy clinical trial or if you just want to get more information, the following websites are good references: