A New Ray of Hope
Immunotherapy - Making New Strides in
Immunotherapy in India is a new class of cancer treatment that has
delivered astonishing results till date. Also known as Biologic Therapy
or Biotherapy, it is a new type of Cancer treatment that enhances
the body’s immune system to fight against Cancer. Immunotherapy for
Cancer can be done either by training the immune system to recognise
the Cancer cells and destroy it or by stimulating the immune system to
destroy the tumour cells by using antibodies.
There are several types of Immunotherapies - passive Immunotherapies
(monoclonal antibodies), non- specific Immunotherapies and active
specific Immunotherapies (Cancer vaccines). Immunotherapy Cancer
treatment brings in a new ray of hope for the Cancer population. With
this method, the immune system can be boosted, directed or restored
by the different kinds of Cancer Immunotherapy.
Focusing on the IS of the host rather than the Tumour has proven
to be an effective strategy in a number of Tumour cases. However,
this approach is not new. In the seventies, instillation of intracavitary
Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) for the treatment of superficial Bladder
Tumours was found to be an effective treatment. A few years later, the
first positive studies with cytokines further supported the strategy of
boosting the IS of the host to attack Cancer. Thus, interleukin 2 (IL2)
or interferon alfa (IFNα) have been used for decades for the treatment
of Kidney Cancer or Melanoma in some specific indications.
But it was the development of antibodies that enabled inhibition of key
immune checkpoints that meant a breakthrough in Cancer therapy.
The anti-PD-1 antibody nivolumab received the FDA-approval in
March 2015 for squamous Lung Cancer treatment. In addition,
antibodies targeting PD-1 or PD-L1 have demonstrated their efficacy
and safety in additional Tumours, including Non-Small Cell Lung
Carcinoma (NSCLC), Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC), Bladder Cancer,
and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Almost at the same time, the field of
adoptive cell transfer has exploded. The Chimeric Antigen Receptor
(CAR) T technology has provided strong evidence of efficacy in the
treatment of B cell malignancies, and different T cell based treatments
are currently under investigation for different types of Tumours.
Immunotherapy is not totally safe and has side effects which can vary
from person to person. The side effects can vary depending on the type
of Immunotherapy you receive and how your body responds. Since
your immune system takes care of your whole body, Immunotherapy
can cause inflammation in any of the organs in the body. This can
mean that some people with an autoimmune disease such as Lupus
or Rheumatoid Arthritis may find it difficult to have Immunotherapy
safely. Common side effects include fatigue, skin rash and diarrhoea –
which can vary in severity and duration.