Immunotherapy, also called biological therapy, is a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer. Substances made by the body, or made in a laboratory, are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer.
As part of its normal function, the immune system detects and destroys abnormal cells and most likely prevents or curbs the growth of many cancers. Even though the immune system can prevent or slow cancer growth, cancer cells have ways to avoid being destroyed. Immunotherapy helps the immune system better act against cancer.
This can be done in different ways, including:
Different types of immunotherapy work in different ways. Some work by boosting the immune system in a very general way, while others help train the immune system to solely focus on attacking cancer cells.
In this process, the drug is introduced directly to your bloodstream through an IV, similar to how chemotherapy is given in an infusion room at an outpatient cancer center. Monoclonal antibodies are usually given through a needle in a blood vein. Some patients may require a “port” to be inserted in the upper chest area during a short procedure for their treatment. A port may help to decrease your anxiety about finding a vein each time for your treatment.
In this process, the drug is introduced through the subcutaneous tissue with an injection, usually in your belly or thigh. The medication is injected slowly over several minutes. Following the injection, you will be monitored for 15-30 minutes depending on the medication for any reaction.