Immunotherapy has emerged as a groundbreaking treatment approach in the field of cancer therapy, offering new hope to patients by harnessing the power of the immune system to target and destroy cancer cells. While immunotherapy has demonstrated remarkable success, it is not without its challenges. Understanding the potential side effects associated with immunotherapy is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers to ensure optimal care and outcomes.
How Immunotherapy Works
Unlike traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, which directly target cancer cells, immunotherapy aims to stimulate the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. This is achieved through various mechanisms, including checkpoint inhibitors, CAR-T cell therapy, and cancer vaccines.
Common Immunotherapy Agents
Drugs like pembrolizumab and nivolumab work by blocking certain proteins that inhibit immune responses, allowing the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.
CAR-T Cell Therapy
This approach involves genetically modifying a patient’s own T cells to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), enabling them to better target cancer cells.
These vaccines stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells by presenting specific antigens associated with the tumor.
Understanding Immunotherapy Side Effects
Immune-Related Adverse Events (irAEs)
Immunotherapy can cause the immune system to attack healthy tissues, leading to immune-related adverse events. Common irAEs include skin rash, diarrhea, and inflammation of the lungs or liver.
Fatigue is a frequent side effect of immunotherapy, affecting patients’ energy levels and overall well-being. Adequate rest and communication with healthcare providers can help manage this symptom.
Some patients may experience flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, and muscle aches. These symptoms typically occur shortly after treatment and subside with time.
Changes in Appetite and Weight
Immunotherapy can impact appetite and weight. Maintaining a balanced diet and communicating changes with