With my mom starting back up on Chemo at some point in the 10 days, I decided to get my notes out on Immunotherapy.  Yeah probably not the most exciting way to a Friday night about 2 weeks ago.  I have an interest in information that there is about different cancers, patients stories, and treatments.  This is a geeky hobby of mine ever since my mom was diagnosed 2.5 years ago.

Immunotherapy was discovered in 1891, by a surgeon named William Coley in New York. He began injecting bacteria into tumors in hopes for an immune response to attack.  What is Immunotherapy?  It is designed to boost the body’s natural defense to fight cancer.  It is also referred as Biologic Therapy, and materials are either made by body or in a lab.  After looking through the different types majority are made in a lab.  Most of the research I came across stated that it is not clear how it fights cancers.  However, there are some thoughts: Stop or slows the cancer cell’s growth, the spread to other parts of the body.  May even help the immune system destroy cells.

I came across a one therapy called Monoclonal antibodies.  These are made in a lab, that go under cover as an antibody produce in the body.  While they are under cover they search for a specific protein in the cancer cell.  It would go to the cells that don’t have the protein that is on the wanted list.  The mission for these antibodies is to help the immune system destroy cancerous cells and prevent their advancement in growth.  They are also armed to deliver radiation and other cancer fighting drugs directly to invaded cells. Antibodies stake out for other potential cancers that maybe hiding.  As with most cancer treatments there are side effects.  Which are usually mild and are similar to an allergic reaction.  This classified as a Targeted therapy.

Non-Specific immunotherapy is the next example.  Interfons and Interleukins are the common Non-Specific immunotherapies.  Interfons slows the growth of the cancer cells and also helps immune system.  Side effects of Interfons are risk of infections are increased, along rash and thinning hair.  Interleukins help produce cells for the immune system, and is used in the treatment for Kidney and Skin Cancers.  The side effects of Interleukins are weight gain and low blood pressure.  Both of these made in a lab.

Vaccines are another branch of Immunotherapy, they are divided into Preventive and Treatment.  Example of a Preventive vaccine is HPV, which can be given to girls and boys at the ages of 11 to 12.   This a 3 shot series of either Cervarix, Grandasil, and Grandasil 19.  Gradasil and Gradasil 19 may protect against genital warts and anal cancer in male recipients.  Also males can receive the vaccine through the age of 21.  Unless male has had sexual contact with another male, then he could receive the vaccine until age of 26. For females the Gradasils may protect against valvular, vaginal, anal, cervical cancers, and genital warts.  Treatment vaccine are meant to train the immune system to recognize and destroy the cancer cells.  There is only ONE approved vaccine in US for this purpose.  That is sipuleucel-TL (Provenge), used for treating metastatic prostate cancer.  The benefits of this vaccine are debatable because it is complicated and costly.  But the are additional vaccines in development or available through clinical trails.

Through my surfing are web I found that is research always being done.  Hopefully with efforts of the people who working the labs and organizing the clinical trails, there will be cure someday.  This is a disease that is one big pain in the butt.  Now I get to stand by quietly as my mom goes through another round of Chemo treatments.